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[Registered at Stationers’ Hall, London.]


Printed in the United Sates of America.

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[omitted in electronic edition]

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</div1><div1 title=“Preface of the Author”>

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Special treatises on the Person of the Holy Spirit are comparatively few, and systematic treatment of His Work is still more uncommon. In dogmatics, it is true, this subject is introduced, developed, and explained, but special treatment is exceptional.

As much as there is written on Christ, so little is there written on the Holy Spirit. The work of John Owen on this subject is most widely known and still unsurpassed. In fact, John Owen wrote three works on the Holy Spirit; published in 1674, 1682, and 1693. He was naturally a prolific writer and theologian. Born in 1616, he died at the good old age of seventy-five years, in 1691. From 1642, when he published his first book, he continued writing books until his death.

In 1826 Richard Baynes reissued the works of John Owen, D.D., edited by Thomas Russell, A.M., with memoirs of his life and writings (twenty-one volumes). This edition is still in the market, and offers a treasury of sound and thorough theology.

Besides Owen’s works I mention the following:

David Rungius, “Proof of the Eternity and Eternal Godhead of the Holy Spirit,” Wittenberg, 1599.

Seb. Nieman, “On the Holy Spirit,” Jena, 1655.

Joannes Ernest Gerhard, “On the Person of the Holy Spirit,” Jena, 1660.

Theod. Hackspann, “Dissertation on the Holy Spirit,” Jena, 1655.

J. G. Dorsche, “On the Person of the Holy Spirit,” Köningsberg, 1690.

Fr. Deutsch, “On the Personality of the Holy Spirit,” Leipsic, 1711.

Gottfr. Olearius (John F. Burgius), “On the Adoration and Worship of the Holy Spirit,” Jena, 1727.

J. F. Buddeuss, “On the Godhead of the Holy Spirit,” Jena, 1727.

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J. C. Pfeiffer, “On the Godhead of the Holy Spirit,” Jena, 1740.

G. F. Gude, “On the Martyrs as Witnesses for the Godhead or the Holy Spirit,” Leipsic, 1741.

J. C. Danhauer, “On the Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son,” Strasburg, 1663. J. Senstius, Rostock, 1718, and J. A. Butstett, Wolfenbüttel, 1749. John Schmid, John Meisner, P. Havercorn, G. Wegner, and C. M. Pfaff.

The Work of the Holy Spirit has been discussed separately by the following: Anton, “The Holy Spirit Indispensable.” Carsov, “On the Holy Spirit in Conviction.” Wensdorf, “On the Holy Spirit as a Teacher.” Boerner, “The Anointing of the Holy Spirit.” Neuman, “The Anointing which Teaches All Things.” Fries, “The Office of the Holy Spirit in General.” Weiss, “The Holy Spirit Bringing into Remembrance.” Foertsch, “On the Holy Spirit’s Leading of the Children of God.” Hoepfner, “On the Intercession of the Holy Spirit.” Beltheim, Arnold, Gunther, Wendler, and Dummerick, “On the Groaning of the Holy Spirit.” Meen, “On the Adoration of the Holy Spirit.” Henning and Crusius, “On the Earnest of the Holy Spirit.”

The following Dutch theologians have written on the same subject: Gysbrecht Voetius in his “Select-Disput.,” I., p. 466. Sam. Maresius, “Theological Treatise on the Personality and Godhead of the Holy Spirit,” in his “Sylloge-Disput.,” I., p. 364. Jac. Fruytier, “The Ancient Doctrine Concerning God the Holy Spirit, True, Proven, and Divine”; exposition of John xv. 26, 27. Camp. Vitringa, Jr., “Duæ Disputationes Academicæ de Natione Spiritus Sancti,” in his Opuscula.

Works on the same subject during the present century can scarcely be compared with the studies of John Owen. We notice the following: Herder, “Vom Paraclet.” Xachei, “Von der Lästerung wider den Heiligen Geist,” Nürnberg, 1875. E. Guers, “Le Saint-Esprit, Étude doctrinale et pratique sur Sa Personne et Son OEuvre,” Toulouse, 1865. A. J. Gordon, “Dispensation of the Spirit.”

This meager bibliography shows what scant systematic treatment is accorded to the Person of the Holy Spirit. Studies of the Work of the Holy Spirit are still more scanty. It is true there are several dissertations on separate parts of this Work, but it has never been treated in its organic unity. Not even by Guers, who acknowledges that his little book is not entitled to a place among dogmatics.

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In fact, Owen is still unsurpassed, and is therefore much sought after by good theologians, both lay and clerical. And yet Owen’s masterpiece does not seem to make a closer study of this subject superfluous. Altho invincible as a champion against the Armenians and Semi-Armenians of the latter part of the seventeenth century, his armor is too light to meet the doctrinal errors of the present time. For this reason the author has undertaken to offer the thinking Christian public an exposition of the second part of this great subject, in a form adapted to the claims of the age and the errors of the day. He has not treated the first part, the Person of the Holy Spirit. This is not a subject for controversy. The Godhead of the Holy Spirit is indeed being confessed or denied, but the principles of which confession or denial is the necessary result are so divergent that a discussion between confessor and denier is impossible. If they ever enter the arena they should cross lances on the point of first principles, and discuss the Source of Truth. And when this is settled they might come to discuss a special subject like that of the Holy Spirit. But until then such a discussion with them that deny the Revelation would almost be sacrilegious.

But with the Work of the Holy Spirit it is different. For altho professing Christians acknowledge this Work, and all that it includes, and all that flows from it, yet the various groups into which they divide represent it in very divergent ways. What differences on this point between Calvinists and Ethicals, Reformed, Kohlbruggians, and Perfectionists! The representations of the practical Supernaturalists, Mystics, and Antinomians can scarcely be recognized.

It seemed to me impracticable and confusing to attack these deviating opinions on subordinate points. These differences should never be discussed but systematically. He that has not first staked off the entire domain in which the Holy Spirit works can not successfully measure any part of it, to the winning of a brother and to the glory of God.

Hence leaving out polemics almost entirely, I have made an effort to represent the Work of the Holy Spirit in its organic relations, so that the reader may be enabled to survey the entire domain. And in surveying, who is not surprised at the ever-increasing dimensions of the Work of the Holy Spirit in all the things that pertain to God and man?

Even tho we honor the Father and believe on the Son, how little do we live in the Holy Spirit! It even seems to us sometimes that <pb n=“xii”/> for our sanctification only, the Holy Spirit is added accidentally to the great redemptive work.

This is the reason why our thoughts are so little occupied with the Holy Spirit; why in the ministry of the Word He is so little honored; why the people of God, when bowed in supplication before the Throne of Grace, make Him so little the object of their adoration. You feel involuntarily that of our piety, which is already small enough, He receives a too scanty portion.

And since this is the result of an inexcusable lack of knowledge and appreciation of His glorious Work in the entire creation, holy enthusiasm constrained me, in the power, of God, to offer my fellow champions for the faith once delivered by the fathers, some assistance in this respect.

May the Holy Spirit, whose divine Work I have uttered in human words and with stammering tongue, crown this labor with such blessing that you may feel His unseen Presence more closely, and that He may bring to your disquieted heart more abundant consolation.


Amsterdam, April 10, 1888.



Postscript for American readers, I add one more observation.

This work, contains occasional polemics against Methodism which to the many ministers and members of the churches called “Methodist” may appear unfair and uncalled for. Be it, therefore, clearly stated that my controversy with Methodism is never with these particular churches. The Methodism that I contend with prevailed until recently in nearly all the Protestant churches as an unhealthy fruit of the Reveil in the beginning of this century. Methodism as here intended is identical with what Mr. Heath, in The Contemporary Review (May, 1898), criticized as wofully inadequate to place Protestantism again at the head of the spiritual movement.

Methodism was born out of the spiritual decline of the Episcopal Church of England and Wales. It arose as the reaction of the individual and of the spiritual subjective against the destructive power of the objective in the community as manifested in the Church of England. As such the reaction was precious and undoubtedly a gift of God, and in its workings it would have continued just as salutary if it had retained its character of a predominant reaction.

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It should have supposed the Church as a community as an objective power, and in this objective domain it should have vindicated the significance of the individual spiritual life and of the subjective confessing.

But it failed to do this. From vindicating the subjective rights of the individual it soon passed into antagonism against the objective rights of the community. This resulted dogmatically in the controversy about the objective work of God, viz., in His decree and His election, and ecclesiastically in antagonism against the objective work of the office through the confession. It gave supremacy to the subjective element in man’s free will and to the individual element in the deciding of unchurchly conflicts in the Church. And so it retained no other aim than the conversion of individual sinners; and for this work it abandoned the organic, and retained only the mechanical method.

As such it celebrated in the so-called Reveil its most glorious triumph, and penetrated nearly all the Protestant churches, and even the Episcopal Church under the name of Evangelicalism or Low Churchism. As a second reaction against the second decline of the Protestant churches, of that time this triumph undoubtedly brought a great blessing.

But when the necessity arose to reduce this new spiritual life to a definite principle, upon this to construct a Protestant-Christian life and world-view in opposition to the unchristian philosophies and to the essentially pantheistic life and world-view, and to give these position and to maintain it, then it pitiably failed. It lacked conscious, sharply defined principles; with its individualism and subjectivity it could not reach the social questions, and by reason of its complete lack of organic unity it could not formulate an independent life and world-view; yea, it stood everywhere as an obstacle to such formations.

For this reason it is absolutely necessary to teach the Protestant churches clearly to see this dark shadow of Methodism, while at the same time they should continue to study its precious significance as a spiritual reaction.

Hence my contending with Methodism and my persistent pointing to the imperative necessity of vindicating over against and alongside of the purely mechanical subjectivity the rights of the organic social in all human life, and of satisfying the need of the power of objectivity in presence of the extravagant statements of <pb n=“xiv”/> subjectivity. This presses all the more since in the Methodist theology of America the modern tendency is gaining ground.

The Work of the Holy Spirit may not be displaced by, the activity of the human spirit.


Amsterdam, April 21, 1899.


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Dr. Kuyper’s work on the Holy Spirit first appeared in the Heraut in weekly instalments, after which it was published in book form, Amsterdam, 1888.

This explains the object of the author in writing the book; viz., the instruction of the people of the Netherlands. Written in the ordinary language of the people, it meets the need of both laity and clergy.

However, depth of thought was not sacrificed to simplicity of speech. On the contrary, the latter was only the instrument to make the former lucid and transparent.

The Heraut is a religious weekly of which, Dr. Kuyper has been the editor-in-chief for more than twenty years. It is published on Friday, and forms the Sunday reading of a large constituency. Through its columns, Dr. Kuyper has taught again the people of the Netherlands, in city and country, the principles of the Reformed faith, and how to give these principles a new development in accordance with the modern conscience of our time.

Dr. Kuyper is not an apologist, but an earnest and conscientious reconstructionist. He has made the people acquainted with the symbols of the Reformed faith, and by expounding the Scriptures to them he has maintained and defended the positions of those symbols. His success in this respect appears conspicuously in the reformation of the Reformed Churches in 1886, and in the subsequent development of marvelous energy and activity in Church and State, which are products of revived and reconstructed Calvinism. Without the patient toil and labor of this quarter of a century, that reformation would have been impossible.

In his religious and political reformations, Dr. Kuyper proceeded from the personal conviction that the salvation of Church and State could be found only in a return to the deserted foundations of the national Reformed theology; but not to reconstruct it in its <pb n=“xvi”/> worn-out form. “His fresh, brave spirit is entirely free from all conservatism” (Dr. W. Geesink). He is a man of his time, as well as for his time. The new superstructure which he has been rearing upon the carefully reuncovered foundations of the Reformed theology he seeks to adapt to all the needs, demands, and distresses of the present. In how far he has succeeded time only can tell.

Since 1871 he has published in the columns of the Heraut and afterward in book form the following: “Out of the Word,” Bible studies, four volumes; “The Incarnate Word,” “The Work of the Holy Spirit,” three volumes, and “E Voto Dordraceno,” an explanation of the Heidelberg Catechism, four volumes. This last work is a rich treasury of sound and thorough theology, dogmatic and practical. He has published several other treatises which have not yet appeared in book form. Among these we notice especially “On Common Grace,” which, still in process of publication, is full of most excellent reading. The number of his works amounts already to over one hundred and fifty, a partial list of which is to be found following this introduction.

The following works have been translated into English: “Encyclopædia of Sacred Theology” (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1898); “Calvinism and Art”; “Calvinism and Our Constitutional Liberties”; “Pantheism and Destruction of the Boundaries”; “The Stone Lectures.”

For the better understanding of the work, the translator begs to offer the following explanations. “Ethical Irenical,” or simply “Ethical,” is the name of a movement in the Netherlands that seeks to mediate between modern Rationalism and the orthodox confession of the old Reformed Church: It seeks to restore peace and tranquillity not by a return to the original church order, nor by the maintenance of the old Confession and the removal of deviating ministers through trial and deposition (Judicial Treatment), but by making efforts to find a common ground for both parties. It proceeds from the idea that that which is diseased in the Church can and will return to health: partly by letting the disease alone to run its course (Doorzieken)—forgetting that corruption in the Church is not a disease, but a sin;[1] partly by a liberal diffusion of Bible knowledge among the people (Medical Treatment). <pb n=“xvii”/>

Dr. Chantepie de la Saussaye, a disciple of Schleiermacher, was the spiritual father of this Ethical theology. Born in 1818, Dr. De la Saussaye entered the University of Leyden in 1836. Dissatisfied with the rational supernaturalism of a former generation, unable to adapt himself to the vagueness and ambiguousness of the so-called Groningen school, or to find a basis for the development of his theological science in the treasures of the Calvinistic theology, he felt himself strongly attracted to the school of Schelling, and through him he came under the influence of Pantheism. During the years of his pastorate in Leeuwarden (1842-48) and in Leyden to 1872, he modified and developed the ideas of Schleiermacher in an independent way. The Ethical theology was the result. Its basic thought may be comprehended as follows:

“Transcendent above nature, God is also immanent in nature. This immanence is not merely physical, but also, on the ground of this, ethical. This ethical immanence manifests itself in the religious moral life, which is the real and true life of man. It originates in the heathen world, and through Israel ascends to Christ, in whom it attains completion. Among the heathen it manifests itself especially in the conscience with its two elements of fear and hope; among Israel in Law and Prophecy; and in Christ in His perfect union with God and humanity. For this reason He is the Word par excellence, the Central Man, in whom all that is human is realized. However, while until Christ it proceeded from circumference to center, after Christ it proceeds in ever-widening circles from center to circumference. Life flows from Christ into the Church, which, having temporarily become an institution for the education of the nations, became through the Reformation and the French Revolution what it should be, a confessing Church. Its power lies no more in ecclesiastical organization, neither in authoritative creed and confession, but in moral activity and influence. The divine Word in the conscience begins to work and to govern; Christianity is being transferred into the moral domain.

“However; the perfect ethical immanence of God is not attained in this dispensation; being always possible, it may be realized in, the succeeding eons.”[2]

It is not surprising that this theology, obliterating with its pantheistic current the boundary-lines between the Creator and the <pb n=“xviii”/> creature, should have come in hostile contact with the Reformed theology, which most zealously guards these boundary-lines. In fact, instead of uniting the two existing parties on one common ground, the Ethical movement added a third, which in the subsequent conflict was much more bitter, arbitrary, and tyrannical than the moderns, and which has already abandoned the Holy Scriptures in the manner of Wellhausen and Kuenen.

In 1872 Dr. Chantepie de la Saussaye was appointed professor of theology in the University of Groningen, succeeding Hofstede de Groot. He filled this position but thirteen months. He fell asleep February 13, 1874.

His most excellent disciple is the highly gifted Dr. J. H. Gunning, till 1899 professor of theology at the University of Leyden.

The name of Dr. Köhlbrugge is frequently found in the following pages. Born a Lutheran, a graduate of the seminary of Amsterdam, a candidate for the Lutheran ministry, Dr. Köhlbrugge became acquainted with the Reformed theology through the study of its earlier exponents. Known and feared as an ardent admirer of the doctrine of predestination, the authorities first of the Lutheran then of the State Church refused him admission to the ministry. He left Holland for Germany, where for the same reason he was debarred from the pulpits of the German Reformed churches. At last he was called to the pulpit of a Free Reformed church at Elberfeld, established by himself.

He was a profound theologian, a prolific writer, and one zealous for the honor of his Master. His numerous writings, half Lutheran, half Reformed, were spread over Holland, the Rhenish provinces, the cantons of Switzerland, and even among some Reformed churches of Bohemia.

Some of his disciples fell into Antinomianism, and occupy pulpits in the State Church at the present time. They are called Neo-Kohlbruggians. Professor Böhl, of Vienna, is the learned representative of the Old Kohlbruggians. Both the old and the new school are strongly opposed to Calvinism.

The translation of “The Work of the Holy Spirit” was undertaken by appointment of the author, to whom the proof-sheets of almost all the first volume were submitted for correction. Being “overwhelmed” with work, and being fully satisfied with the translation so far as he had seen it, the author decided not to delay the work for the reading of the remaining volumes, but to leave that to <pb n=“xix”/> the discretion of the translator. A question of the omission of matter referring to local conditions and to current theological discussions was also left to the translator’s judgment.

Grateful thanks are due to Rev. Thomas Chalmers Straus, A M., of Peekskill, N. Y., for valuable assistance in preparing this work for the press.


Peekskill, N. Y., January 27, 1900.



The following is a partial list of the works of Dr. Kuyper:


“J. Calvini et J. a Lasco: De Ecclesia Sententiarum inter se Compositio Acad. Diss.” 1862.

“Joannis a Lasco: Opera tum Edita quam Inedita.” Two vols., 1866.

“Wat moeten wy doen, het stemrecht aan ons zelven houden of den Kerkeraad machtigen?” (What Are We to Do: Retain the Right of Voting, or Authorize the Consistory?) 1867.

“De Menschwording Gods Hat Levensbeginsel der Kerk.” Intreêrede to Utrecht. (The Incarnation of God the Vital Principle of the Church. Inaugural discourse at Utrecht.) 1867.

“Het Graf.” Leerrede aan den avond van Goede-Vrydag. (The Tomb. Sermon on Good Friday night.) 1869.

“Zestal Leerredenen.” (Six Sermons.) 1869.

“De Kerkelyke Goederen.” (Church Property.) 1869.

“Vrymaking der Kerk. (The Emancipation of the Church.) 1869.

“Hat Beroep op het Volksgeweten.” (An Appeal to the National Conscience. ) 1869.

“Eenvormigheid de Vloek van het Moderne Leven.” (Uniformity the Curse of Modern Life.) 1869.

“De Schrift het Woord Gods.” (Scripture the Word of God.) 1870.

“Kerkeraadsprotocollen der Hollandsche Gemeente te London.” 1569-1571. (The Consistorial Minutes of the Dutch Church in London.) 1870.

“De Hollandsche Gemeente te London,” 1570-1571. (The Dutch Church in London.) 1870.

“Conservatisme en Orthodoxie. Valsche en Ware Behoudzucht.” (Conservatism and Orthodoxy, the True and the False Instinct of Self-Preservation.) 1870.

“Geworteld en Gegrond, de Kerk als Organisme en Institute.” (Rooted and Grounded, the Church as Organism and Institute.) Inaugural at Amsterdam. 1870.

“De Leer der Onsterfelykheid en de Staats School.” (The Doctrine of Immortality and the State School.) 1870.

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“Een Perel in cue Verkeerde Schelp.” (A Pearl in the Wrong Shell.) 1871.

“Het Modernisme een Fata Morgana op Christelyk Gebiede” (Modernism a Fata Morgana in the Christian Domain.) 1871.

“De Zending Naar de Schrift.” (Missions According to Scripture.) 1871.

“Tweede Zestal Leerredenen.” (Another Six Sermons.) 1851.

“O God Wees My Zondaar Genadig!” Leerrede op den Laatsten Dag van Het Jaar; 1870. (O God be Merciful to Me a Sinner! Sermon on Old Year’s night, 1870. ) 1871.

“De Bartholomeusnacht.” (The Bartholomew Night.) 1872.

“De Sneeuw van den Libanon.” (The Snow of Lebanon.) 1872.

“Bekeert a Want het Koningryk Gods is Naby.” (Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven Is at Hand). Sermon on the last day of the year 1871. 1872.

“Het Vergryp der Zeventien Ouderlingen.” (The Mistake of the Seventeen Elders. Memoir of the Consistory of Amsterdam.) 1872.

“Uit het Woord.” (Out of the Word.) Devotional Bible studies. 1873.

“Het Calvinisme, Oorsprong en Waarborg onzer Constitutioneele Vryheden.” (Calvinism, the Origin and Surety of Our Constitutional Liberties.) 1874.

“Uit het Woord.” (Out of the Word.) Second volume, 1875.

“De Schoolquestie.” (The School Question.) Six brochures, 1875.

“Liberalisten en Joden.” (Liberalists and Jews.) 1879.

“Uit het Wobrd.” (Out of the Word.) Third volume, 1879.

“Ons Program.” (Our Program.) 1879.

“De Leidsche Professoren en de Executeurs der Dordtsche Nalatenschap”. (The Leyden Professors and the Executors of the Inheritance of Dordt.) 1879.

“Revisi eder Revisielegende:” (Revision of the Revision Legend.). 1879.

“De Synods der Nederlandsche Revormde Kerk uit Haar Eigen Vermaanbrief Geoordeeld.” (The Synod of the Reformed Church in the Netherlands Judged by Its Own Epistle of Exhortation.) 1879.

“Antirevolutionair ook in uw Gezin.” (Anti-Revolutionary Even in the Family.) 1880.

“Bede om een Dubbel Corrigendum.” (Prayer for a Double Corrigendum.) 1880.

“Strikt Genomen.” (Taken Strictly. The Right to Found a University, Tested by Public Law and History.) 1880.

“Souvereiniteit in Eigen Kring.” (Sovereignty in Our Own Circle.) 1880.

“Honig nit den Rottsteen.” (Honey Out of the Rock.) 1880.

“De Hedendaagsche Schrifteritiek in Hare Bedenkelyke Strekking voor de Gemeente des Levenden Gods.” (Modern Criticism and Its Dangerous Influence upon the Church of the Living God.) Discourse. 1882.

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“D. Franscisci Junii: Opuscula Theologica.” 1882.

“Alexander Comrie.” Translated from The Catholic Presbyterian Review. 1882.

“Ex Ungue Leonem.” Dr. Doodes’s Method of Interpretation Tested on One Point. 1882.

“Welke zyn de Vooruitzchten voor de Studenten der vrye Universiteit?” (What Are the Prospects for the Students of the Free University?) 1882.

“Tractaat van de Reformatie der Kerken.” (Tractate of the Reformation of the Churches.) 1883.

“Honig uit den Rottsteen.” (Honey Out of the Rock.) Second volume, 1883.

“Uit het Woord.” (Out of the Word.) Second series, first volume: That Grace Is Particular. 1884.

“Yzer en Leem.” (Iron and Clay.) Discourses. 1885.

“Uit het Woord.” (Out of the Word.) Second volume: The Doctrine of the Covenants. 1885.

“Uit het Woord.” Third volume: The Practise of Godliness. 1886.

“Het Dreigend Conflict.” (The Conflict Threatening.) 1886.

“Het Conflict Gekomen.” (The Conflict Come.) Three vols., 1886.

“Dr. Kuyper voor de Synode.” (Dr. Kuyper Before the Synod.) 1886.

“Laatste Woord tot de Conscientie van de Leden der Synode.” (Last Word to the Conscience of the Members of Synod.) On behalf of the persecuted members of the Consistory of Amsterdam. 1886.

“Afwerping van het Juk der Synodale Hierarchie. “(The Throwing Off of the Yoke of the Synodical Hierarchy.) 1886.

“Alzoo zal het onder u niet zyn.” (It Shall Not be So Among You.) 1886.

“Eene ziel die zich Nederbuigt.” (A Prostrate Soul.) Opening address of the Reformed Church Congress at Amsterdam. 1887.

“De Verborgen Dingen zyn voor den Heere Onzen God.” (The Secret Things Belong to the Lord Our God.) 1887.

“Sion Door Recht Verlost.” (Zion Saved through Judgment.) 1887.

“De Vleeschwording des Woords.” (The Incarnation of the Word.) 1887.

“Dagen van Goode Boodschap.” (Days of Glad Tidings.) 1887.

“Tweederlei Vaderland.” (Two Fatherlands.) 1887.

“Het Calvinisme en de Kunst.” (Calvinism and Art.) 1888.

“Dr. Gisberti Voetii Selectarum Disputationum Fasciculus.” In the Bibliotheca Reformata. 1888.

“Het Work des Heiligen Geestes.” (The Work of the Holy Spirit.) Three vols., 1889.

“Homer voor den Sabbath.” (Homer for the Sabbath.) Meditations on the Sabbath. 1889.

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“Niet de Vryheidsboom Maar het Kruis.” (Not the Tree of Liberty, but the Cross.) Opening address at the tenth annual meeting of the Deputies. 1889.

“Eer is Teêr.” (Honor Is Tender.) 1889.

“Handenarbeid.” (Manual Labor.) 1889.

“Scolastica.” (The Secret of True Study.) 1889.

“Tractaat van den Sabbath.” (Tractate on the Sabbath.) A historical dogmatic study. 1890.

“Separatie en Doleantie.” (“Secession and Doleantie.” “Doleantie” from doleo, to suffer pain, to mourn—is in Holland the historic name adopted by a body of Christians to designate the fact that they are either being persecuted by the State Church or have been expelled from its communion on account of their adherence to the orthodox confession.) 1890.

“Zion’s Roem en Sterkte.” (Zion’s Strength and Glory.) 1890.

“De Twaalf Patriarchen.” (The Twelve Patriarchs.) A study of Bible characters. 1890.

“Eenige Kameradviezen.” (Chamber Advises.) Of the years 1874, 1875 1890.

“Is er Aan de Publieke Universiteit ten onzent Plaats voor eene Faculteit der Theologie?” (Is there Room in Our Public Universities for a Theological Faculty?) 1890.

“Calvinism and Confessional Revision.” In The Presbyterian and Reformed Review, July, 1891.

“Voor een Distel een Mirt.” (Instead of a Brier a Myrtle-Tree.) 1891.

“Maranatha.” Opening address at the meeting of Deputies. 1891.

“Gedrachtslyn by de Stembus.” (Line of Conduct at the Polls.) 1891.

“Het Sociale Vraagstuken de Christelyke Religie.” (The Social Question and the Christian Religion.) Opening address at the Social Congress. 1891.

“De Verflauwing der Grenzen.” (The Destruction of the Boundaries.) Address at the transfer of the Rectorate of the Free University. 1892.

“In de Schaduwe des Doods.” (In the Shadows of Death.) Meditations for the sick-chamber and death-bed. 1893.

“Encyclopædie der Heilige Godgeleerdheid.” (Encyclopedia of Sacred Theology.) Three vols., 1894.

“E Voto Dordraceno.” Explanation of the Heidelberg Catechism. Four vols., 1894-95.

Levinus W. C. Keuchenius, LL.D. Biography. 1896.

“De Christus en de Socials Nooden, en de Democratische Klippen.” (Christ and the Social Needs and Democratic Dangers.) 1895.

“Uitgave van de Statenvertaling van den Bybel.” (Edition of the Authorized Version of the Bible.) 1895.

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“De Zegen des Heeren over Onze Kerken.” (The Blessing of the Lord upon Our Churches.) 1896.

“Vrouwen uit de Heilige Schrift.” (Women of the Bible.) 1897.

“Le Parti Antirevolutionaire.” (The Anti-Revolutionary Party.) In Les Pay-Pas. Presented by the Dutch Society of Journalists to the foreign journalists at the inauguration of the Queen. 1898.

“By de Gratie Gods.” (By the Grace of God.) Address. 1898.

“Calvinism.” Six lectures delivered at Princeton, N. J., October, 1898. “Calvinism in History,” “Calvinism and Religion,” “Calvinism and Politics,” “Calvinism and Science,” “Calvinism and Art,” “Calvinism and the Future.” Published in Dutch, January, 1899.

“Als gy in uw Huis Zit.” (When Thou Sittest in Thine House.) Meditations for the Family. July, 1899.

“Evolutie.” (Evolution.) Oration at the transfer of the rectorate of the Free University, October 20, 1899.

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Of Princeton Theological Seminary.


It is fortunately no longer necessary formally to introduce Dr, Kuyper to the American religious public. Quite a number of his remarkable essays have appeared of late years in our periodicals. These have borne such titles as “Calvinism in Art,” “Calvinism the Source and Pledge of Our Constitutional Liberties,” “Calvinism and Confessional Revision,” “The Obliteration of Boundaries,” “The Antithesis between Symbolism and Revelation”; and have appeared in the pages of such publications as Christian Thought, Bibliotheca Sacra, The Presbyterian and Reformed Review—not, we may be sure, without delighting their readers with the breadth of their treatment and the high and penetrating quality of their thought. The columns of The Christian Intelligencer have from time to time during the last year been adorned with examples of Dr. Kuyper’s practical expositions of Scriptural truth; and now and again a brief but illuminating discussion of a topic of present interest has appeared in the columns of The Independent. The appetite whetted by this taste, of good things has been partially gratified by the publication in English of two extended treatises from his hand—one discussing in a singularly profound way the principles of “The Encyclopedia of Sacred Theology” (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1898), and the other expounding with the utmost breadth and forcefulness the fundamental principles of “Calvinism” (The Fleming H. Revell Company, 1899). The latter volume consists of lectures delivered on “The L. P. Stone Foundation,” at Princeton Theological Seminary in the autumn of 1898, and Dr. Kuyper’s visit to America on this occasion brought him into contact with many lovers of high ideas in America, and has left a sense of personal acquaintance with him on the minds of multitudes who had the good fortune to meet him or to hear his voice at that time. It is impossible for us to look longer upon Dr. Kuyper as a stranger, needing an introduction to our favorable <pb n=“xxvi”/> notice, when he appears again before us; he seems rather now to be one of our own prophets to whose message we have a certain right, and a new book from whose hands we welcome as we would a new gift from our near friend charged in a sense with care for our welfare. The book that is at present offered to the American public does not indeed come fresh from his hands. It has already been within the reach of his Dutch audience for more than a decade (it was published in 1888). It is only recently, however, that Dr. Kuyper has come to belong to us also, and the publication of this book in English, we may hope, is only another step in the process which will gradually make all his message ours.

Certainly no one will turn over the pages of this volume—much less will he, as our Jewish friends would say, “sink himself into the book”—without perceiving that it is a very valuable gift which comes to us in it from our newly found teacher. It is, as will be at once observed, a comprehensive treatise on the Work of the Holy Ghost—a theme higher than which none can occupy the attention of the Christian man, and yet one on which really comprehensive treatises, are comparatively rare. It is easy, to be sure, to exaggerate the significance of the latter fact. There never was a time, of course, when Christians did not confess their faith in the Holy Ghost; and there never was a time when they did not speak to one another of the work of the Blessed Spirit, the Executor of the Godhead not only in the creation and upholding of the worlds and in the inspiration of the prophets and apostles, but also in the regenerating and sanctifying of the soul. Nor has there ever been a time when, in the prosecution of its task of realizing mentally the treasures of truth put in its charge in the Scriptural revelation, the Church has not busied itself also with the investigation of the mysteries of the person and work of the Spirit; and especially has there never been a time since that tremendous revival of religion which we call the Reformation when the whole work of the Spirit in the application of the redemption wrought out by Christ has not been a topic of the most thorough and loving study of Christian men. Indeed, it partly arises out of the very intensity of the study given to the saving activities of the Spirit that so few comprehensive Treatises on the work of the Spirit have been written. The subject has seemed so vast, the ramifications of it have appeared so far-reaching, that few have had the courage to undertake it as a whole. Dogmaticians have, to be sure, been compelled to present the entire <pb n=“xxvii”/> range of the matter in its appropriate place in their completed systems. But when monographs came to be written, they have tended to confine themselves to a single segment of the great circle; and thus we have had treatises rather on, say, Regeneration, or Justification, or Sanctification, on the Anointing of the Spirit; or the Intercession of the Spirit, or the Sealing of the Spirit, than on the work of the Spirit as a whole. It would be a great mistake to think of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit as neglected, merely because it has been preferably presented under its several rubrics or parts, rather than in its entirety. How easily one may fall into such an error is fairly illustrated by certain criticisms that have been recently passed upon the Westminster Confession of Faith—which is (as a Puritan document was sure to be) very much a treatise on the work of the Spirit—as if it were deficient, in not having a chapter specifically devoted to “the Holy Spirit and His Work.” The sole reason why it does not give a chapter to this subject, however, is because it prefers to give nine chapters to it; and when an attempt was made to supply the fancied omission, it was found that pretty much all that could be done was to present in the proposed new chapter a meager summary of the contents of these nine chapters. It would have been more plausible, indeed, to say that the Westminster Confession comparatively neglected the work of Christ; or even the work of God the Father. Similarly the lack in our literature of a large number of comprehensive treatises on the work of the Holy Spirit is in part due to the richness of our literature in treatises on the separate portions of that work severally. The significance of Dr. Kuyper’s book is, therefore, in part due only to the fact that he has had the courage to attack and the gifts successfully to accomplish a task which few have possessed the breadth either of outlook or of powers to undertake. And it is no small gain to be able to survey the whole field of the work of the Holy Spirit in its organic unity under the guidance of so fertile, so systematic, and so practical a mind. If we can not look upon it as breaking entirely new ground, or even say that it is the only work of its kind since Owen, we can at least say that it brings together the material belonging to this great topic with a systematizing genius that is very rare, and presents it with a penetrating appreciation of its meaning and a richness of apprehension of its relations that is exceedingly illuminating.

It is to be observed that we have not said without qualification <pb n=“xxviii”/> that the comparative rarity of such comprehensive treatises on the work of the Holy Spirit as Dr. Kuyper’s is due simply to the greatness and difficulty of the task. We have been careful to say that it is only in part due to this cause. It is only in the circles to which this English translation is presented, to say the truth, that this remark is applicable at all. It is the happiness of the Reformed Christians of English speech that they are the heirs of what must in all fairness be spoken of as an immense literature upon this great topic; it may even be said with some justice that the peculiarity of their theological labor turns just on, the diligence and depth of their study of this locus. It is, it will be remembered, to John Owen’s great “Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit” that Dr. Kuyper points as hitherto the normative treatise on the subject. But John Owen’s book did not stand alone in his day and generation, but was rather merely symptomatic of the engrossment of the theological thought of the circle of which he was so great an ornament in the investigation of this subject. Thomas Goodwin’s treatise on “The Work of the Holy Ghost in Our Salvation” is well worthy of a place by its side; and its is only the truth to say that Puritan thought was almost entirely occupied with loving study of the work of the Holy Spirit, and found its highest expression in dogmatico-practical expositions of the several aspects of it—of which such treatises as those of Charnock and Swinnerton on Regeneration are only the best-known examples among a multitude which have fallen out of memory in the lapse of years. For a century and a half afterward, indeed, this topic continued to form the hinge of the theologizing of the English Nonconformists. Nor has it lost its central position even yet in the minds of those who have the best right to be looked upon as the successors of the Puritans: There has been in some quarters some decay, to be sure, in sureness of grasp and theological precision in the presentation of the subject; but it is possible that a larger number of practical treatises on some element or other of the doctrine of the Spirit continue to appear from the English press annually than on any other branch of divinity. Among these, such books as Dr. A. J: Gordon’s “The Ministry of the Spirit,” Dr. J. E. Cumming’s “Through the Eternal Spirit,” Principal H. C. G. Moule’s “Veni Creator,” Dr. Bedford’s “Vox Dei,” Dr. Robson’s “The Holy Spirit, the Paraclete,” Dr. Vaughan’s “The Gifts of the Holy Spirit”—to name only a few of the most recent books—attain a high level of theological clarity <pb n=“xxix”/> and spiritual power; while, if we may be permitted to go back only a few years, we may find in Dr. James Buchanan’s “The Office and Work of the Holy Spirit,” and in Dr. George Smeaton’s “The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit,” two treatises covering the whole ground the one in a more practical, the other in a more didactic spirit in a manner worthy of the best traditions of our Puritan fathers. There has always been a copious stream of literature on the work of the Holy Spirit, therefore, among the English-speaking churches; and Dr. Kuyper’s book comes to us not as something of a novelty, but as a specially finely conceived and executed presentation of a topic on which we are all thinking.

But the case is not the same in all parts of Christendom. If we lift our eyes from our own special condition and view the Church at large, it is a very different spectacle that greets them. As we sweep them down the history of the Church, we discover that the topic of the work of the Holy Spirit was one which only at a late date really emerged as the explicit study of Christian men. As we sweep them over the whole extent of the modern Church, we discover that it is a topic which appeals even yet with little force to very large sections of the Church. The poverty of Continental theology in this locus is, indeed, after all is said and done, depressing. Note one or two little French books, by E. Guers and G. Tophel,[3] and a couple of formal studies of the New-Testament doctrine of the Spirit by the Dutch writers Stemler and Thoden Van Velzen, called out by The Hague Society—and we have before us almost the whole list of the older books of our century which pretend in any way to cover the ground. Nor has very much been done more recently to remedy the deficiency. The amazing theological activity of latter-day Germany has, to be sure, not been able to pass so fruitful a theme entirely by; and her scholars have given us a few scientific studies of sections of the Biblical material. The two most significant of these appeared, indeed, in the same year with Dr. Kuyper’s book—Gloel’s “Der heilige Geist in des Heilsverkündigung des Paulus,” and Gunkel’s “Die Wirkungen des heiligen Geistes nach d. populär. Anschauung der apostolischen Zeit and der Lehre d. A. Paulus” (2d ed.; 1899); these have been followed in the same spirit by Weienel in a work called “Die Wirkungen des Geistes und <pb n=“xxx”/>der Geister im nachapostolischen Zeitalter” (1899); while a little earlier the Dutch theologian Beversluis issued a more comprehensive study, “De Heilige Geest en zijne werkingen volgens de Schriften des Nieuwen Verbonds” (1896). Their investigation of the Biblical material, however, is not only very formal, but it is also dominated by such imperfect theological presuppositions that it can carry the student scarcely a step forward. Very recently something better in this respect has appeared in such books as Th: Meinhold’s “Der heilige Geist and sein Wirken am einzelnen Menschen, mit besonderer Beziehung auf Luther” (1870, 12mo, pp. 278);[4] W. Kölling’s “Pneumatologie, oder die Lehre von der Person des heiligen Geistes” (1894, 8vo, pp. 368); Karl von Lechler’s “Die biblische Lehre vom heiligen Geiste” (1899, 8vo, pp. 307); and K. F. Nosgen’s “Geschichte von der Lehre vom heiligen Geiste” (1899, 8vo, pp. 376)—which it is to be hoped are the beginnings of a varied body of scholarly works from the Lutheran side, out of which may, after a while, grow some such comprehensive and many-sided treatment of the whole subject as that which Dr. Kuyper has given our Dutch brethren, and now us in this English translation. But none of them provides the desired treatise itself, and it is significant that no one even professes to do so. Even where, as in the case of the books of Meinhold and von Lechler, the treatment is really topical, the author is careful to disclaim the purpose to provide a well-compacted, systematic view of the subject, by putting on his title-page a hint of a historical or exegetical point of view.

In fact, only in a single instance in the whole history of German theological literature—or, we may say, prior to Dr. Kuyper in the entire history of continental theological literature—has any one had the courage or found the impulse to face the task Dr. Kuyper has so admirably executed. We are referring, of course, to the great work on “Die Lehre vom heiligem Geiste,” which was projected by that theological giant, K. A. Kahnis, but the first part of which only was published—in a thin volume of three hundred and fifty-six pages, in 1847. It was doubtless symptomatic of the state of feeling in Germany on the subject that Kahnis never found time or encouragement in a long life of theological pursuits to complete his <pb n=“xxxi”/> book. And, indeed, it was greeted in theological circles at the time with something like amused amazement that any one could devote so much time and labor to this theme, or expect others to find time and energy to read such a treatise. We are told that a well-known theologian remarked caustically of it that if things were to be carried out on that scale, no one could expect to live long enough to read the literature of his subject; and the similar remark made by C. Hase in the preface to the fifth edition of his “Dogmatic,” tho it names no names, is said to have had Kahnis’s book in view.[5] The significance of Kahnis’s unique and unsuccessful attempt to provide for German Protestantism some worthy treatment of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is so great that it will repay us to fix the facts concerning it well in our minds. And to this end we extract the following account of it from the introduction of the work of von Lechler which we have just mentioned (p. 22 sqq.)


“We have to indicate, in conclusion, another circumstance in the history of our doctrine, which is in its way just as significant for the attitude of present-day science toward this topic as was the silence of the first Ecumenical Council concerning it for the end of the first theological age. It is the extraordinary poverty of monographs on the Holy Spirit. Altho there do exist some, and in some instances important, studies dealing with the subject, yet their number is out of all proportion to the greatness and the extent of the problems. We doubtless should not err in assuming that vital interest in a scientific question will express itself not merely in comprehensive handbooks and encyclopedic compendiums, the latter of which are especially forced to see to the completeness of the list of subjects treated, but of necessity also in those separate investigations in which especially the fresh vigor of youth is accustomed to make proof of its fitness for higher studies. What lacunae we should have to regret in other branches of theological science if a rich development of monographic literature did not range itself by the fide of the compendiums, breaking out here and there new paths, laying deeper foundations, supplying valuable material for the constructive or decorative completion of the scientific structure! All this, in the present instance, however, has scarcely made a beginning. The sole separate treatise which has been projected on a really profound and broad basis of investigation—the “Lehre vom heiligen Geiste” of K. A. Kahnis (then at Breslau), 1847—came to a standstill with its first part. This celebrated theologian, who had certainly in his possession in surprising measure the qualities and acquisitions that fitted him to come forward as a preparer of the way in this uncertain and little worthily studied subject, had set before himself the purpose of investigating this, as he himself called it, ‘extraordinarily neglected’ topic, at once on its Biblical, ecclesiastical, <pb n=“xxxii”/> historical, and dogmatic sides. The history of his book is exceedingly instructive end suggestive with respect to the topic itself. He found the subject, as he approached it more closely, in a very special degree a difficult one, chiefly on account of the rnanifoldness of the conception. At first his results became ever more and more negative. A controversy with the ‘friends of light’ of the time helped him forward. Testium nubes magis juvant, quam luciferorum virorum importuna lumina. But God, he says, led him to greater clearness: the doctrine of the Church approved itself to him. Nevertheless it was not his purpose to establish the Scriptural doctrine in all its points, but only to exhibit the place which the Holy Spirit occupies in the development of the Word of God in the Old and New Testaments. There was a feeling that came to him that we were standing upon the eve of a new outpouring of the Spirit. But the wished-for dawn, he says, still held back. His wide survey, beyond his special subject, of the whole domain of science in the corporate life of the Church, is characteristic no less of the subject than of the man. It was not given to him, however, to see the longed-for flood poured over the parched fields. His exegetical ‘foundation’ (chaps. i.-iii.) moves in the old tracks. Since he shared essentially the subjective point of view of Schleiermacher and committed the final decision in the determining conceptions to philosophy, in spite of many remarkable flashes of insight into the Scriptures he remained fixed in the intellectualistic and ethical mode of conceiving the Holy Ghost, tho this was accompanied by many attempts to transcend Schleiermacher, but without the attaining of any unitary conception and without any effort to bring to a Scriptural solution the burning question of the personality or impersonality of the Spirit. Thefourth chapter institutes a comparison between the Spirit of Christianity and that of heathenism. The second book deals first with the relation of the Church to the Holy Spirit in general, and then enters upon a history of the doctrine which is carried, however, only through the earliest fathers, and breaks off with a survey of the scanty harvest which the first age supplied to the succeeding epochs, in which the richest development of the doctrine took place. Here the book closes.[6]


Thus the only worthy attempt German theology has made to produce a comprehensive treatise on the work of the Holy Ghost remains a neglected torso till to-day.

If we will gather up the facts to which we have thus somewhat desultorily called attention into a propositional statement, we shall find ourselves compelled to recognize that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was only slowly brought to the explicit consciousness of the Church, and has even yet taken a firm hold on the mind and consciousness of only a small section of the Church. To be more specific, we shall need to note that the early Church busied itself with the investigation within the limits of this locus of only the doctrine <pb n=“xxxiii”/> of the person of the Holy Ghost—His deity and personality—and of His one function of inspirer of the prophets and apostles, while the whole doctrine of the work of the Spirit at large is a gift to the Church from the Reformation;[7] and we shall need to note further that since its formulation by the Reformers this doctrine has taken deep root and borne its full fruits only in the Reformed churches, and among them in exact proportion to the loyalty of their adherence to, and the richness of their development of, the fundamental principles of the Reformed theology. Stated in its sharpest form this is as much as to say that the developed doctrine of the work of the Holy Spirit is an exclusively Reformation doctrine, and more particularly a Reformed doctrine, and more particularly still a Puritan doctrine. Wherever the fundamental principles of the Reformation have gone, it has gone; but it has come to its full rights only among the Reformed churches, and among them only where what we have been accustomed to call “the Second Reformation” has deepened the spiritual life of the churches and cast back the Christian with special poignancy of feeling upon the grace of God alone as his sole dependence for salvation and all the goods of this life and the life to come. Indeed, it is possible to be more precise still. The doctrine of the work of the Holy spirit is a gift from John Calvin to the Church of Christ. He did not, of course, invent it. The whole of it lay spread out on the pages of Scripture with a clearness and fulness of utterance which one would think would secure that even he who ran should read it; and doubtless he who ran did read it, and it has fed the soul of the true believer in all ages. Accordingly hints of its apprehension are found widely scattered in all Christian literature, and in particular the germs of the doctrine are spread broadcast over the pages of Augustine. Luther did not fail to lay hold upon them; Zwingli shows time and again that he had them richly in his mind; they constituted, in very fact, one of the foundations of the <pb n=“xxxiv”/> Reformation movement; or rather they provided its vital breath. But it was Calvin who first gave them anything like systematic or adequate expression; and it is through him and from him that they have come to be the assured possession of the Church of Christ. There is no phenomenon in doctrinal history more astonishing than the commonly entertained views as to the contribution made by John Calvin to the development of Christian doctrine. He is thought of currently as the father of doctrines, such as that of predestination and reprobation, of which he was the mere heir,--taking them as wholes over from the hands of his great master Augustine. Meanwhile his real personal contributions to Christian doctrine are utterly forgotten. These are of the richest kind and can not be enumerated here. But it is germane to our present topic to note that at their head stand three gifts of the first value to the Church’s thought and life, which we should by no means allow to pass from our grateful memory. It is to John Calvin that we owe that broad conception of the work of Christ which is expressed in the doctrine of His threefold office of Prophet, Priest, and King; he was the first who presented the work of Christ under this schema, and from him it was that it has passed into a Christian commonplace. It is to John Calvin that we owe the whole conception of a science of “Christian Ethics”; he was the first to outline its idea and develop its principles and contents, and it remained a peculium of his followers for a century. And it is to John Calvin that we owe the first formulation of the doctrine of the work of the Holy Ghost; he himself gave it a very rich statement, developing it especially in the broad departments of “Common Grace” “Regeneration,” and “the Witness of the Spirit”; and it is, as we have seen, among his spiritual descendants only that it has to this day received any adequate attention in the churches. We must guard ourselves, of course, from exaggeration in such a matter; the bare facts, when put forth without pausing to allow for the unimportant shadings, sound of themselves sufficiently like an exaggeration.[8] But it is simply true that these great topics received their first formulation at the hands of John Calvin; and it is from him that the Church has derived them, and to him that it owes its thanks for them.

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And if we pause to ask why the formulation of the doctrine of the work of the Spirit waited for the Reformation and for Calvin, and why the further working out of the details of this doctrine and its enrichment by the profound study of Christian minds and meditation of Christian hearts has come down from Calvin only to the Puritans, and from the Puritans to their spiritual descendants like the Free Church teachers of the Disruption era and the Dutch contestants for the treasures of the Reformed religion of our own day, the reasons are not far to seek. There is, in the first place, a regular order in the acquisition of doctrinal truth, inherent in the nature of the case, which therefore the Church was bound to follow in its gradual realization of the deposit of truth given it in the Scriptures; and by virtue of this the Church could not successfully attack the task of assimilating and formulating the doctrine of the work of the Spirit until the foundations had been laid firmly in a clear grasp on yet more fundamental doctrines. And there are, in the next place, certain forms of doctrinal construction which leave no or only a meager place for the work of the personal Holy Spirit in the heart; and in the presence of these constructions this doctrine, even where in part apprehended and acknowledged, languishes and falls out of the interest of men. The operation of the former cause postponed the development of the doctrine of the work of the Spirit until the way was prepared for it; and this preparation was complete only at the Reformation. The operation of the second cause has retarded where it has not stifled the proper assimilation of the doctrine in many parts of the Church until to-day.

To be more specific. The development of the doctrinal system of Christianity in the apprehension of the Church has actually run through—as it theoretically should have run through—a regular and logical course. First, attention was absorbed in the contemplation of the objective elements of the Christian deposit, and only afterward were the subjective elements taken into fuller consideration. First of all it was the Christian doctrine of God that forced itself on the attention of men, and it was not until the doctrine of the Trinity had been thoroughly assimilated that attention was vigorously attracted to the Christian doctrine of the God-man; and again, it was not until the doctrine of the Person of Christ was thoroughly assimilated that attention was poignantly attracted to the Christian doctrine of sin—man’s need and helplessness; and only after that had been wrought fully out again could <pb n=“xxxvi”/> attention turn to the objective provision to meet man’s needs in the work of Christ; and again; only after that to the subjective provision to meet his needs in the work of the Spirit. This is the logical order of development, and it is the actual order in which the Church has slowly and amid the throes of all sorts of conflicts with the world and with its own slowness to believe all that the prophets have written—worked its way into the whole truth revealed to it in the Word. The order is, it will be observed, Theology, Christology, Anthropology (Hamartialogy), Impetration of Redemption, Application of Redemption; and in the nature of the case the topics that fall under the rubric of the application of redemption could not be solidly investigated until the basis had been laid for them in the assimilation of the preceding topics. We have connected the great names of Athanasius and his worthy successors who fought out the Christological disputes, of Augustine and of Anselm, with the precedent stages of this development. It was the leaders of the Reformation who were called on to add the capstone to the structure by working out the facts as to the application of redemption to the soul of man through the Holy Spirit. Some elements of the doctrine of the Spirit are indeed implicated in earlier discussions. For example, the deity and personality of the Spirit—the whole doctrine of His person—was a part of the doctrine; of the Trinity, and this accordingly became a topic for early debate, and patristic literature is rich in discussions of it. The authority of Scripture was fundamental to the whole doctrinal discussion, and the doctrine of the inspiration of the prophets and apostles by the Spirit was therefore asserted from the beginning with great emphasis. In the determination of man’s need in the Pelagian controversy much was necessarily determined about “Grace,”—its necessity, its prevenience, its efficacy, its indefectibility,—and in this much was anticipated of what was afterward to be more orderly developed in the doctrine of the interior work of the Spirit; and accordingly there is much in Augustine which preadumbrates the determination of later times. But even in Augustine there is a vagueness and tentativeness in the treatment of these topics which advises us that while the facts relatively to man and his needs and the methods of God’s working upon him to salvation are firmly grasped, these same facts relatively to the personal activities of the Spirit as yet await their full assimilation. Another step had yet to be taken: the Church needed to wait yet for Anselm to set on foot the final determination <pb n=“xxxvii”/> of the doctrine of a vicarious atonement; and only when time had been given for its assimilation, at length men’s minds were able to take the final step. Then Luther rose to proclaim justification by faith, and Calvin to set forth with his marvelous balance the whole doctrine of the work of the Spirit in applying salvation to the soul. In this matter, too, the fulness of the times needed to be waited for; and when the fulness of the times came the men were ready for their task and the Church was ready for their work. And in this collocation we find a portion of the secret of the immense upheaval of the Reformation.

Unfortunately, however, the Church was not ready in all its parts alike for the new step in doctrinal development. This was, of course, in the nature of the case: for the, development of doctrine takes place naturally in a matrix of old and hardened partial conceptions, and can make its way only by means of a conflict of opinion. All Arians did not disappear immediately after the Council of Nice; on the contrary, for an age they seemed destined to rule the Church. The decree of Chalcedon did not at once quiet all Christological debate, or do away with all Christological error. There were remainders of Pelagianism that outlived Augustine; and indeed that after the Synod of Orange began to make headway against the truth. Anselm’s construction of the atonement only slowly worked its way into the hearts of men. And so, when Calvin had for the first time formulated the fuller and more precise doctrine of the work of the Spirit, there were antagonistic forces in the world which crowded upon it and curtailed its influence and clogged its advance in the apprehension of men. In general, these may be said to be two: the sacerdotal tendency on the one hand and the libertarian tendency on the other. The sacerdotal tendency was entrenched in the old Church; from which the Reformers were extruded indeed by the very force of the new leaven of their individualism of spiritual life. That Church was therefore impervious to the newly formulated doctrine of the work of the Spirit. To it the Church was the depository of grace, the sacraments were its indispensable vehicle, and the administration of it lay in the hands of human agents. Wherever this sacramentarianism went, in however small a measure, it tended so far to distract men’s attention from the Spirit of God and to focus it on the media of His working; and wherever it has entrenched itself, there the study of the work of the Spirit has accordingly more or less languished. It is easy indeed to say that the Spirit stands behind the sacraments <pb n=“xxxviii”/> and is operative in the sacraments; as a matter of fact, the sacraments tend, in all such cases, to absorb the attention and the theoretical explanations of their efficacy as vested in the Spirit’s energy tend to pass out of the vivid interest of men. The libertarian tendency, on the other hand, was the nerve of the old semi-Pelagianism which in Thomism and Tridentinism became in a modified form the formal doctrine of the Church of Rome; and in various forms it soon began to seep also into and to trouble the churches, of the Reformation—first the Lutheran and after that also the Reformed. To it, the will of man was in greater or less measure the decisive factor in the subjective reception of salvation; and in proportion as it was more or less developed or more or less fully applied, interest in the doctrine of the subjective work of the Spirit languished, and in these circles too men’s minds were to that degree distracted from the study of the doctrine of the work of the Spirit, and tended to focus themselves on the autocracy of the human will and its native or renewed ability to obey God and seek and find communion with Him. No doubt here too it is easy to point to the function which is still allowed the Spirit, in most at least of the theological constructions on this basis. But the practical effect has been that just in proportion as the autocracy of the human will in salvation has been emphasized, the interest in the internal work of the Spirit has declined. When we take into consideration the widespread influence that has been attained even in the Protestant world by these two antagonistic tendencies, we shall cease to wonder at the widespread neglect that has befallen the doctrine of the work of the Spirit. And we shall have prosecuted our inquiry but a little way before we become aware how entirely these facts account for the phenomena before us: how completely it is true that interest in the doctrine of the work of the Spirit has failed just in those regions and just in those epochs in which either sacramentarian or libertarian opinions have ruled; and how true it is that engagement with this doctrine has been intense only along the banks of that narrow stream of religious life and thought the keynote of which has been the soli Deo gloria in all its fulness of meaning. With this key in hand the mysteries of the history of this doctrine in the Church are at once solved for us.

One of the chief claims to our attention which Dr. Kuyper’s book makes, therefore, is rooted in the fact that it is a product of a great religious movement in the Dutch churches. This is not the <pb n=“xxxix”/> place to give a history of that movement. We have all watched it with the intensest interest, from the rise of the free Churches to the union with them of the new element from the Doleantie. We have lacked no proof that it was a movement of exceptional spiritual depth; but had there lacked any such proof,— it would be supplied by the appearance of this book out of its heart. Wherever men are busying themselves with holy and happy meditations on the Holy Ghost and His work, it is safe to say the foundations of a true spiritual life are laid, and the structure of a rich spiritual life is rising. The mere fact that a book of this character offers itself as one of the products of this movement attracts us to it; and the nature of the work itself—its solidity of thought and its depth of spiritual apprehension—brightens our hopes for the future of the churches in which it has had its birth. Only a spiritually minded Church provides a soil in which a literature of the Spirit can grow. There are some who will miss in the book what they are accustomed to call “scientific” character;[9] it has no lack certainly of scientific exactitude of conception, and if it seems to any to lack “scientific” form, it assuredly has a quality which is better than anything that even a “scientific” form could give it—it is a religious book. It is the product of a religious heart, and it leads the reader to a religious contemplation of the great facts of the Spirit’s working. May it bring to all, into whose hands it finds its way in this fresh vehicle of a new language, an abiding and happy sense of rest on and in God the Holy Ghost, the Author and Lord of all life, to whom in our heart of hearts we may pray:


Veni, Creator Spiritus,

Spiritus recreator,

Tu deus, tu datus cœlitus,

Tu donum, tu donator.”


Princeton Theological Seminary,

              April 23, 1900.


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</div1><div1 title=“Volume One: The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Church as a Whole”>

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The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Church as a Whole

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<div2 title=“First Chapter. Introduction”>

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First Chapter.




<div3 title=“I. Careful Treatment Required”>




Careful Treatment Required.


“Who hath also given unto us His Holy Spirit.”—1 Thess. iv. 8.


The need of divine guidance is never more deeply felt than when one undertakes to give instruction in the work of the Holy Spirit—unspeakably tender is the subject, touching the inmost secrets of God and the soul’s deepest mysteries.

We shield instinctively the intimacies of kindred and friends from intrusive observation, and nothing hurts the sensitive heart more than the rude exposure of that which should not be unveiled, being beautiful only in the retirement of the home circle. Greater delicacy befits our approach to the holy mystery of our soul’s intimacy with the living God. Indeed, we can scarcely find words to express it, for it touches a domain far below the social life where language is formed and usage determines the meaning of words.

Glimpses of this life have been revealed, but the greater part has been withheld. It is like the life of Him who did not cry, nor lift up nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. And that which was heard was whispered rather than spoken—a soul-breath, soft but voiceless, or rather a radiating of the soul’s own blessed warmth. Sometimes the stillness has been broken by a cry or a raptured shout; but there has been mainly a silent working, a ministering of stern rebuke or of sweet comfort by that wonderful Being in the Holy Trinity whom with stammering tongue we adore as the Holy Spirit.

Spiritual experience can furnish no basis for instruction; for such experience rests on that which took place in our own soul. <pb n=“4”/> Certainly this has value, influence, voice in the matter. But what guarantees correctness and fidelity in interpreting such experience? And again, how can we distinguish its various sources—from ourselves, from without, or from the Holy Spirit? The twofold question will ever hold: Is our experience shared by others, and may it not be vitiated by what is in us sinful and spiritually abnormal?

Altho there is no subject in whose treatment the soul inclines more to draw upon its own experience, there is none that demands more that our sole source of knowledge be the Word given us by the Holy Spirit. After that, human experience may be heard, attesting what the lips have confessed; even affording glimpses into the Spirit’s blessed mysteries, which are unspeakable and of which the Scripture therefore does not speak. But this can not be the ground of instruction to others.

The Church of Christ assuredly presents abundant spiritual utterance in hymn and spiritual song; in homilies hortatory and consoling; in sober confession of outbursts of souls wellnigh overwhelmed by the floods of persecution and martyrdom. But even this can not be the foundation of knowledge concerning the work of the Holy Spirit.

The following reasons will make this apparent:

First, The difficulty of discriminating between the men and women whose experience we consider pure and healthy, and those whose testimony we put aside as strained and unhealthful. Luther frequently spoke of his experience, and so did Caspar Schwenkfeld, the dangerous fanatic. But what is our warrant for approving the utterances of the great Reformer and warning against those of the Silesian nobleman? For evidently the testimony of the two men can not be equally true. Luther condemned as a lie what Schwenkfeld commended as a highly spiritual attainment.

Second, The testimony of believers presents only the dim outlines of the work of the Holy Spirit. Their voices are faint as coming from an unknown realm, and their broken speech is intelligible only when we, initiated by the Holy Spirit, can interpret it from our own experience. Otherwise we hear, but fail to understand; we listen, but receive no information. Only he that hath ears can hear what the Spirit has spoken secretly to these children of God.

Third, Among those Christian heroes whose testimony we receive, some speak clearly, truthfully, forcibly, others confusedly as tho they were groping in the dark. Whence the difference? Closer <pb n=“5”/> examination shows that the former have borrowed all their speed from the Word of God, while the others tried to add to it something novel that promised to be great, but proved only bubbles, quickly dissolved, leaving no trace.

Last, When, on the other hand, in this treasury of Christian testimony we find some truth better developed, more clearly expressed, more aptly illustrated than in Scripture; or, in other words, when the ore of the Sacred Scripture has been melted in the crucible of the mortal anguish of the Church of God, and cast into more permanent forms, then we always discover in such forms certain fixed types. Spiritual life expresses itself otherwise among the earnest-souled Lapps and Finns than among the light-hearted French. The rugged Scotchman pours out his overflowing heart in a different way from that of the emotional German.

Yea, more striking still, some preacher has obtained a marked influence upon the souls of men of a certain locality; an exhorter has got hold of the hearts of the people; or some mother in Israel has sent forth her word among her neighbors; and what do we discover? That in that whole region we meet no other expressions of spiritual life than those coined by that preacher, that exhorter, that mother in Israel. This shows that the language, the very words and forms in which the soul expresses itself, are largely borrowed, and spring but rarely from one’s own spiritual consciousness; and so do not insure the correctness of their interpretation of the soul’s experience.

And when such heroes as Augustine, Thomas, Luther, Calvin, and others present us something strikingly original, then we encounter difficulty in understanding their strong and vigorous testimony. For the individuality of these choice vessels is so marked that, unless sifted and tested, we can not fully comprehend them.

All this shows that the supply of knowledge concerning the work of the Holy Spirit, which, judging superficially, was to gush forth from the deep wells of Christian experience, yields but a few drop.


Hence for the knowledge of the subject we must return to that wondrous Word of God which as a mystery of mysteries lies still uncomprehended in the Church, seemingly dead as a stone, but a stone that strikes fire. Who has not seen its scintillating sparks? Where is the child of God whose heart has not been kindled by the fire of that Word? <pb n=“6”/>

But Scripture sheds scant light on the work of the Holy Spirit. For proof, see how much the Old Testament says of the Messiah and how comparatively little of the Holy Spirit. The little circle of saints, Mary, Simeon, Anna, John, who, standing in the vestibule of the New Testament, could scan the horizon of the Old Testament revelation with a glance—how much they knew of the Person of the Promised Deliverer, and how little of the Holy Spirit! Even including all the New Testament teachings, how scanty is the light upon the work of the Holy Spirit compared with that upon the work of Christ!

And this is quite natural, and could not be otherwise, for Christ is the Word made Flesh, having visible, well-defined form, in which we recognize our own, that of a man, whose outlines follow the direction of our own being. Christ can be seen and heard; once men’s hands could even handle the Word of Life. But the Holy Spirit is entirely different. Of Him nothing appears in visible form; He never steps out from the intangible void. Hovering, undefined, incomprehensible, He remains a mystery. He is as the wind! We hear its sound, but can not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth. Eye can not see Him, ear can not hear Him, much less the hand handle Him. There are, indeed, symbolic signs and appearances: a dove, tongues of fire, the sound of a rushing, mighty wind, a breathing from the holy lips of Jesus, a laying on of hands, a speaking with foreign tongues. But of all this nothing remains; nothing lingers behind, not even the trace of a footprint. And after the signs have disappeared, His being remains just as puzzling, mysterious, and distant as ever. So almost all the divine instruction concerning the Holy Spirit is likewise obscure, intelligible only so far as He makes it clear to the eye of the favored soul.

We know that the same may be said of Christ’s work, whose real import is apprehended solely by the spiritually enlightened, who behold the eternal wonders of the Cross. And yet what wonderful fascination is there even for a little child in the story of the manger in Bethlehem, of the Transfiguration, of Gabbatha and Golgotha. How easily can we interest him by telling of the heavenly Father who numbereth the hairs of his head, arrayeth the lilies of the field, feedeth the sparrows on the house-top. But is it possible so to engage his attention for the Person of the Holy Spirit? The same is true of the unregenerate: they are not unwilling to speak of the heavenly Father; many speak feelingly of the <pb n=“7”/> Manger and of the Cross. But do they ever speak of the Holy Spirit? They can not; the subject has no hold upon them. The Spirit of God is so holily sensitive that naturally He withdraws from the irreverent gaze of the uninitiated.

Christ has fully revealed Himself. It was the love and divine compassion of the Son. But the Holy Spirit has not done so. It is His saving faithfulness to meet us only in the secret place of His love.

This causes another difficulty. Because of His unrevealed character the Church has taught and studied the Spirit’s work much less than Christ’s, and has attained much less clearness in its theological discussion. We might say, since He gave the Word and illuminated the Church, He spoke much more of the Father and the Son than of Himself; not as tho it had been selfish to speak more of Himself—for sinful selfishness is inconceivable in regard to Him—but He must reveal the Father and the Son before He could lead us into the more intimate fellowship with Himself.

This is the reason that there is so little preaching on the subject; that text-books on Systematic Theology rarely treat it separately; that Pentecost (the feast of the Holy Spirit) appeals to the churches and animates them much less than Christmas or Easter; that unhappily many ministers, otherwise faithful, advance many erroneous views upon this subject—a fact of which they and the churches seem unconscious.

Hence special discussion of the theme deserves attention.

That it requires great caution and delicate treatment need not be said. It is our prayer that the discussion may evince such great care and caution as is required, and that our Christian readers may receive our feeble efforts with that love which suffereth long.


<div3 title=“II. Two Standpoints.”>

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 Two Standpoints.


“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.”—Psalm xxxiii. 6.


The work of the Holy Spirit that most concerns us is the renewing of the elect after the image of God. And this is not all. It even savors of selfishness and irreverence to make this so prominent, as tho it were His only work.

The redeemed are not sanctified without Christ, who is made to them sanctification; hence the work of the Spirit must embrace the Incarnation of the Word and the work of the Messiah. But the work of Messiah involves preparatory working in the Patriarchs and. Prophets of Israel, and later activity in the Apostles, i.e., the foreshadowing of the Eternal Word in Scripture. Likewise this revelation involves the conditions of man’s nature and the historical development of the race; hence the Holy Spirit is concerned in the formation of the human mind and the unfolding of the spirit of humanity. Lastly, man’s condition depends on that of the earth: the influences of sun, moon, and stars; the elemental motions; and no less on the actions of spirits, be they angels or demons from other spheres. Wherefore the Spirit’s work must touch the entire host of heaven and earth.

To avoid a mechanical idea of His work as tho it began and ended at random, like piece-work in a factory, it must not be determined nor limited till it extends to all the influences that affect the sanctification of the Church. The Holy Spirit is God, therefore sovereign; hence He can not depend on these influences, but completely controls them. For this He must be able to operate them; so His work must be honored in all the host of heaven, in man and in his history, in the preparation of Scripture, in the Incarnation of the Word, in the salvation of the elect.

But this is not all. The final salvation of the elect is not the <pb n=“9”/> last link in the chain of events. The hour that completes their redemption will be the hour of reckoning for all creation. The Biblical revelation of Christ’s return is not a mere pageant closing this preliminary dispensation, but the great and notable event, the consummation of all before, the catastrophe whereby all that is shall receive its due.

In that great and notable day the elements with commotion and awful change shall be combined into a new heaven and earth, i.e., out of these burning elements shall emerge the real beauty and glory of God’s original purpose. Then all ill, misery, plague, everything unholy, every demon, every spirit turned against God shall become truly hellish; that is, every thing ungodly shall receive its due, i.e., a world in which sin has absolute sway. For what is hell other than a realm in which unholiness works without restraint in body and soul? Then man’s personality will recover the unity destroyed by death, and God will grant His redeemed the fruition of that blest hope confessed on earth amid conflict and affliction in the words “I believe in the resurrection of the body.’’ Then shall Christ triumph over every power of Satan, sin, and death, and thus receive His due as the Christ. Then wheat and tares shall be separated; the mingling shall cease, and the hoe of God’s people become sight; the martyr shall be in rapture and his Executioner in torment. Then, too, shall the veil be drawn from the Jerusalem that is above. The clouds shall, be dispelled that kept us from seeing that God was righteous in all His judgments; then the wisdom and glory of all His counsels shall be vindicated both by Satan and his own in the pit, and by Christ and His redeemed in the city of our God, and the Lord be glorious, in all His works.

Thus radiating from the sanctification of the redeemed, we see the work of the Spirit embracing in past ages the Incarnation, the preparation of Scripture, the forming of man and the universe; and, extending into the ages, the Lord’s return, the final judgment, and that last cataclysm that shall separate heaven from hell forever.


This standpoint precludes our viewing the work of the Spirit from that of the salvation of the redeemed. Our spiritual horizon widens; for the chief thing is not that the elect be fully saved, but that God be justified in all His works and glorified through judgment. To all who acknowledge that “He that believeth not on the Son <pb n=“10”/> shall not see life, but the wrath of God abiding on him,” this must be the only true standpoint.

If we subscribe this awful statement; not having lost our way in the labyrinth of a so-called conditional immortality, which actually annihilates man, then how can we dream of a state of perfect bliss for the elect as long as the lost ones are being tormented by the worm that dieth not? Is there no more love or compassion in our hearts? Can we fancy ourselves for a single moment enjoying heaven’s bliss while the fire is not quenched and no lighted torch is carried into the outer darkness?

To make the bliss of the elect the final end of all things while Satan still roars in the bottomless pit is to annihilate the very thought of such bliss. Love suffers not only when a human being is in pain, but even when an animal is in distress; how much more when an angel gnashes his teeth in torture, and that angel beautiful and glorious as Satan was before his fall. And yet the very mention of Satan unconsciously lifts from our hearts the burden of fellow pain, suffering, and compassion; for we feel immediately that the knowledge of Satan’s suffering in the pit does not in the least appeal to our compassion. On the contrary, to believe that Satan exists but not in utter misery were a wound to our profound sense of justice.

And this is the point: to conceive of the blessedness of a soul not in absolute union with Christ is unholy madness. No one but Christ is blessed, and no man can be blessed but he who is vitally one with Christ—Christ in him and he in Christ. Equally it is unholy madness to conceive of man or angel lost in hell unless he has identified himself with Satan, having become morally one with him. The conception of a soul in hell not morally one with Satan is the most appalling cruelty from which every noble heart recoils with horror.

Every child of God is furious at Satan. Satan is simply unbearable to him. In his inward man (however unfaithful his nature may be) there is bitter enmity, implacable hatred against Satan. Hence it satisfies our holiest conscience to know that Satan is in the bottomless pit. To encourage a plea for him in the heart were treason against God. Sharp agony may pierce his soul like a dagger for the unspeakable depth of his fall, yet as Satan, author of all that is demoniac and fiendish, who has bruised the heel of the Son of God, he can never move our hearts. <pb n=“11”/>

Why? What is the sole, deep reason why as regard’s Satan compassion is dead, hatred is right, and love would be blameworthy? Is it not that we never can look upon Satan without remembering that he is the adversary of our God, the mortal enemy of our Christ? Were it not for that we might weep for him. But now our allegiance to God tells us that such weeping would be treason against our King.

Only by measuring the end of things by what belongs to God can we stand right in this matter. We can view the matter of the redeemed and the lost from the right standpoint only when we subordinate both to that which is highest, i.e., the glory of God. Measured by Him, we can conceive of the redeemed in a state of bliss, enthroned, yet not in danger of pride; since it was and is and ever shall be by His sovereign grace alone. But also measured by Him, we can think of those identified with Satan, joyless and miserable, without once hurting the sense of justice in the heart o f the upright; for to be mercifully inclined toward Satan is impossible to him who loves God with love deep and everlasting. And such is the love of the redeemed.


Considered from this far superior standpoint, the work of the Holy Spirit necessarily assumes a different aspect: Now we can no more say that His work is the sanctification of the elect, with all that precedes and follows; but we confess that it is the vindication of the counsel of God with all that pertains thereto, from the creation and throughout the ages, unto the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and onward throughout eternity, both in heaven and in hell.

The difference between these two viewpoints can easily be appreciated. According to the first, the work of the Holy Spirit is only subordinate. Unfortunately man is fallen; hence he is diseased. Since he is impure and unholy, even subject to death itself, the Holy Spirit must purify and sanctify him. This implies, first, that had man not sinned the Holy Spirit would have had no work. Second, that when the work of sanctification is finished, His activity will cease. According to the correct viewpoint, the work of the Spirit is continuous and perpetual, beginning with the creation, continuing throughout eternity, begun even before sin first appeared.

It may be objected that some time ago the author emphatically opposed the idea that Christ would have come into the world even <pb n=“12”/> if sin had not entered in; and that now he affirms with equal emphasis that the Holy Spirit would have wrought in the would and in man if the latter had remained sinless.

The answer is very simple. If Christ had not appeared in His capacity of Messiah, He would have had, as the Son, the Second Person in the Godhead, His own divine sphere of action, seeing that all things consist through Him. On the contrary, if the work of the Holy Spirit were confined to the sanctification of the redeemed, He would be absolutely inactive if sin had not entered into the world. And since this would be equal to a denial of His Godhead, it can not for a moment be tolerated.

By occupying this superior viewpoint, we apply to the work of the Holy Spirit the fundamental principle of the Reformed churches: “That all things must be measured by the glory of God.”


<div3 title=“III. The indwelling and outgoing works of God”>

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The Indwelling and Outgoing Works of God.


“And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.”—Psalm xxxiii. 6.


The thorough and clear-headed theologians of the most flourishing periods of the Church used to distinguish between the indwelling and outgoing works of God.

The same distinction exists to some extent in nature. The lion watching his prey differs widely from the lion resting among his whelps. See the blazing eye, the lifted head, the strained muscles and panting breath. One can see that the crouching lion is laboring intensely. Yet the act is now only in contemplation. The heat and the ferment, the nerve-tension are all within. A terrible deed is about to be done, but it is still under restraint, until he pounces with thundering roar upon his unsuspecting victim, burying his fangs deep into the quivering flesh.

We find the same distinction in finer form among men. When a storm has raged at sea, and the fate of the absent fishing-smacks that are expected to return with the tide is, uncertain, a fisherman’s awe-stricken wife sits on the brow of the sand-hill watching and waiting in speechless suspense. As she waits, her heart and soul labor in prayer; the nerves are tense, the blood runs fast, and breathing is almost suspended. Yet there is no outward act; only labor within. But on the safe return of the smacks, when she sees her own, her burdened heart finds relief in a cry of joy.

Or, taking examples from the more ordinary walks of life, compare the student, the scholar, the inventor thinking out his new invention, the architect forming his plans, the general studying his opportunities, the sturdy sailor nimbly climbing the mast of his ship, or yonder blacksmith raising the sledge to strike the glowing iron upon the anvil with concentrated muscular force. Judging superficially, one would say the blacksmith and sailor work, but the men of learning are idle. Yet he that looks beneath the surface <pb n=“14”/> knows better than this. For if those men perform no apparent manual labor, they work with brain, nerve, and blood; yet since those organs are more delicate than hand or foot, their invisible, indwelling work is much more exhausting. With all their labor the blacksmith and sailor are pictures of health, while the men of mental force, apparently idle among their folios, are pale from exhaustion, their vitality being almost consumed by their intense application.

Applying this distinction without its human limitations to the works of the Lord, we find that the outgoing works of God had their beginning when God created the heavens and the earth; and that before that moment which marks the birth of time, nothing existed but God working within Himself. Hence this twofold operation: The first, externally manifest, known to us in the acts of creating, upholding, and directing all things—acts that, compared to those of eternity, seem to have begun but yesterday; for what are thousands of years in the presence of the eternal ages? The second, behind and underneath the first—an operation not begun nor ended, but eternal like Himself; deeper, richer, fuller, yet not manifested, hidden within Him, which we therefore designate indwelling.

Altho these two operations can scarcely be separated—for there never was one manifest without which was not first completed within—yet the difference is strongly marked and easily recognized. The indwelling works of God are from eternity, the outgoing belong to time. The former precede, the latter follow: The foundation of that which becomes visible lies in that which remains invisible. The light itself is hidden, it is the radiation only that appears.

The Scripture, speaking of the indwelling works of God, says: “The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, and the thoughts of His heart to all generations” (Psalm xxiii. 11). Since in God heart and thought have no separate existence, but His undivided Essence thinks, feels, and wills, we learn from this significant passage that the Being of God works in Himself from all eternity. This answers the oft-repeated and foolish question, “What did God do before He created the universe?” which is as unreasoning as to ask what the thinker did before he expressed his thoughts, or the architect before he built the house!

God’s indwelling works, which are from everlasting to everlasting, are not insignificant, but surpass His outgoing works in depth and strength as the student’s thinking and the sufferer’s anguish <pb n=“15”/> surpass their strongest utterances in intensity. “Could I but weep,” says the afflicted one, “how much more easily could I bear my sorrow!” And what are tears but the outward expression of grief, relieving the pain and strain of the heart? Or think of the child-bearing of the mother before delivery. It is said of the decree that it hath “brought forth” (Zeph. ii. 2), which signifies that the phenomenon is only the result of preparation hidden from the eye, but more real than the production, and without which there would be nothing to bring forth.

Thus the expression of our earlier theologians is justified, and the difference between the indwelling and the outgoing works is patent.


Accordingly the indwelling works of God are the activities of His Being, without the distinction of Persons; while His outgoing works admit and to some extent demand this distinction: e.g., the common and well-known distinguishing of the Father’s work as that of creation, the Son’s as that of redemption, and the Holy Spirit’s as that of sanctification relates only to God’s outgoing works. While these operations—creation, redemption, and sanctification—are hidden in the thoughts of His heart, His counsel, and His Being, it is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost who creates, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost who redeems, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost who sanctifies, without any division or distinction of activities. The rays of light hidden in the sun are indivisible and indistinguishable until they radiate; so in the Being of God the indwelling working is one and undivided; His personal glories remain invisible until revealed in His outgoing works. A stream is one until it falls over the precipice and divides into many drops. So is the life of God one and undivided while hidden within Himself; but when it is poured out into created things its colors stand revealed. As, therefore, the indwelling works of the Holy spirit are common to the three Persons of the Godhead, we do not discuss them, but treat only those operations that bear the personal marks of His outgoing works.


But we do not mean to teach that the distinction of the personal attributes of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost did not exist in the divine Being, but originated only in His outward activities.

The distinction of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the divine <pb n=“16”/> characteristic of the Eternal Being, His mode of subsistence, His deepest foundation; to think of Him without that distinction would be absurd. Indeed, in the divine and eternal economy of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each of the divine Persons lives and loves and lauds according to His own personal characteristics, so that the Father remains Father toward the Son, and the Son remains Son toward the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from both.

It is right to ask how this agrees with the statement made above; that the indwelling works of God belong, without distinction of Persons, to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and are therefore the works of the divine Being. The answer is found in the careful distinction of the twofold nature of the indwelling works of God.

Some operations in the divine Being are destined to be revealed in time; others will remain forever unrevealed. The former concern the creation; the latter, only the relations of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Take, for instance, election and eternal generation. Both are indwelling operation’s of God, but with marked difference. The Father’s eternal generation of the Son can never be revealed, but must ever be the mystery of the Godhead; while election belongs as decree to the indwelling works of God, yet is destined in the fulness of time to become manifest in the call of the elect.

Regarding the permanently indwelling works of God that do not relate to the creature, but flow from the mutual relation of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the distinctive characteristics of the three Persons must be kept in view. But with those that are to become manifest, relating to the creature, this distinction disappears. Here the rule applies that all indwelling works are activities of the divine Being without distinction of Persons. To illustrate: In the home there are two kinds of activities one flowing from the mutual relation of parents and children, another pertaining to the social life. In the former the distinction between parents and children is never ignored; in the latter, if the relation be normal, neither the father nor the children act alone, but the family as a whole. Even so in the holy, mysterious economy of the divine Being, every operation of the Father upon the Son and of both upon the Holy Spirit is distinct; but in every outgoing act it is always the one divine Being, the thoughts of whose heart are for all His creatures. On that account the natural man knows no more than that he has to do with a God.

The Unitarians, denying the Holy Trinity, have never reached <pb n=“17”/> anything higher than that which can be seen by the light of the darkened human understanding. We often discover that many baptized with water but not with the Holy Spirit speak of the Triune God because others do. For themselves they know only that He is God. This is why the discriminating knowledge of the Triune God can not illuminate the soul until the light of redemption shines within, and the Day-star arises in man’s heart. Our Confession correctly expresses this, saying: “All this we know as well from the testimony of Holy Writ as from their operations, and chiefly by those we feel in ourselves” (art. ix.).


<div3 title=“IV. The work of the Holy Spirit distinguished”>

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The Work of the Holy Spirit Distinguished.


“And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”—Gen. i. 2.


What, in general, is the work of the Holy Spirit as distinguished from that of the Father and of the Son?

Not that every believer needs to know these distinctions in all particulars. The existence of faith does not depend upon intellectual distinctions. The main question is not whether we can distinguish the work of the Father from that of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, but whether we have experienced their gracious operations: The root of the matter, not the name, decides.

Must we then slightly value a clear understanding of sacred things? Shall we deem it superfluous and call its great matters hair-splitting questions? By no means. The human mind searches every department of life. Scientists deem it an honor to spend their lives in analyzing the minutest plants and insects, describing every particular, naming every member of the dissected organism. Their work is never called “hair-splittings,” but is distinguished as “scientific research.” And rightly so, for without differentiation there can be no insight, and without insight there can be no thorough acquaintance with the subject. Why, then, call this same desire unprofitable when it directs the attention not to the creature, but to the Lord God our Creator?

Can there be any worthier object of mental application than the eternal God? Is it right and proper to insist upon correct discrimination in every other sphere of knowledge, and yet regarding the knowledge of God to be satisfied with generalities and confused views? Has God not invited us to share the intellectual knowledge of His Being? Has He not given us His Word? And does not the Word illumine the mysteries of His Being, His attributes, His perfections, His virtues, and the mode of His subsistence? If we aspired to penetrate into things too high for us, or to unveil the <pb n=“19”/> unrevealed, reverence would require us to resist such audacity. But since we aim in godly fear to listen to Scripture, and to receive the proffered knowledge of the deep things of God, there can be no room for objection. We would say rather to those who frown upon such effort: “Ye can discern the face of the sky, but ye can not discern the face of your Father in heaven.”


Hence the question concerning the work of the Holy Spirit as distinguished from that of the Father and of the Son is quite legitimate and necessary.

It is deplorable that many of God’s children have confused conceptions in this respect. They can not distinguish the works of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Even in prayer they use the divine names indiscriminately. Altho the Holy Spirit is explicitly called the Comforter, yet they seek comfort mostly from the Father or the Son, unable to say why and what in sense the Holy Spirit is especially called Comforter.

The early Church already felt the need of clear and exact distinctions in this matter; and the great thinkers and Christian philosophers whom God gave to the Church, especially the Eastern Fathers, expended their best powers largely upon this subject. They saw very clearly that unless the Church learned to distinguish the works of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, its confession of the Holy Trinity could be but a dead sound. Compelled not by love of subtleties, but by the necessity of the Church, they undertook to study these distinctions. And God let heretics vex His Church so as to arouse the mind by conflict, and to lead it to search God’s Word.

So we are not pioneers exploring a new field. The writing of these articles can so impress those alone who are ignorant of the historical treasures of the Church. We propose simply to cause the light, which for so many ages shed its clear and comforting rays upon the Church, to reenter the windows, and thus by deeper knowledge to increase its inward strength.

We begin with the general distinction: That in every work effected by Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in common, the power to bring forth proceeds from the Father: the power to arrange from the Son; the power to perfect from the Holy Spirit.

In 1 Cor. viii. 6, St. Paul teaches that: “There is but one God the Father, of whom are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ by <pb n=“20”/> whom are all things.” Here we have two prepositions: of whom, and by whom. But in Rom. xi. 38 he adds another: “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things.”

The operation here spoken of is threefold: first, that by which all things are originated (of Him); second, that by which all things consist (through Him); third, that by which all things attain their final destiny (to Him). In connection with this clear, apostolic distinction the great teachers of the Church, after the fifth century, used to distinguish the operations of the Persons of the Trinity by saying that the operation whereby all things originated proceeds from the Father; that whereby they received consistency from the Son; and that whereby they were led to their destiny from the Holy Spirit.

These clear thinkers taught that this distinction was in line with that of the Persons. Thus the Father is father. He generates the Son. And the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son: Hence the peculiar feature of the First Person is evidently that He is the Source and Fountain not only of the material creation, but of its very conception; of all that was and is and ever shall be. The peculiarity of the Second Person lies evidently not in generating, but in being generated. One is a son by being generated. Hence since all things proceed from the Father, nothing can proceed from the Son. The source of all things is not in the Son. Yet He adds a work of creation to that which is coming into existence; for the Holy Spirit proceeds also from Him; but not from Him alone, but from the Father and the Son, and that in such a way that the procession from the Son is due to His sameness of essence with the Father.

The Scripture agrees with this in teaching that the Father created all things by the Son, and that without Him was nothing made that was made. For the difference between “created by” and “created from,” we refer to Col. i. 17: “By Him all things consist,” i.e., by Him they hold together. Heb. i. 3 is even clearer, saying that the Son upholds all things by the Word of His power. This shows that as the essentials of the creature’s existence proceed from the Father as Fountain of all, so the forming, putting together, and arranging of its constituents are the proper work of the Son.

If we were reverently to compare God’s work to that of man we would say: A king proposes to build a palace. This requires not only, material, labor, and plans, but also putting together and <pb n=“21”/> arranging of the materials according to the plans. The king furnishes the materials and plans, the builder constructs the palace. Who, then, built it? Neither the king nor the builder alone; but the builder erects it out of the royal treasure.

This expresses the relation between Father and Son in this respect as far as human relations can illustrate the divine. In the construction of the universe two operations appear: first, the causative, which produces the materials, forces, and plans; second, the constructive, which with these forces forms and orders the materials according to the plan. And as the first proceeds from the Father, so does the second from the Son. The Father is the Royal Source of the necessary materials and powers; and the Son as the Builder constructs all things with them according to the counsel of God. If the Father and the Son existed independently, such cooperation would be impossible. But since the Father generates the Son, and by virtue of that generation the Son contains the entire Being of the Father, there can be no division of Being, and only the distinction of Persons remains. For the entire wisdom and power whereby the Son gives consistency to all is generated in Him by the Father; while the counsel which designed all is a determination by the Father of that divine wisdom which He as Father generates in the Son. For the Son is forever the effulgence of the Father’s glory, and the express image of His Person—Heb. i. 3.

This does not complete the work of creation. The creature is made not simply to exist or to adorn some niche in the universe like a statue. Rather was everything created with a purpose and a destiny; and our creation will be complete only when we have become what God designed. Hence Gen. ii. 3 says: “God rested from all His work which He had created to make it perfect” (Dutch translation). Thus to lead the creature to its destiny, to cause it to develop according to its nature, to make it perfect, is the proper work of the Holy Spirit.


<div2 title=“Second Chapter. The Creation”>

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Second Chapter.




<div3 title=“V. The principle of life in the creature”>



The Principle of Life in the Creature.


“By His Spirit He hath garnished the heavens; His hand hath formed the crooked serpent.”—Job xxvi. 13.


We have seen that the work of the Holy Spirit consists in leading all creation to its destiny, the final purpose of which is the glory of God. However, God’s glory in creation appears in various degrees and ways. An insect and a star, the mildew on the wall and the cedar on Lebanon, a common laborer and a man like Augustine, are all the creatures of God; yet how dissimilar they are, and how varied their ways and degrees of glorifying God.

Let us therefore illustrate the statement that the glory of God is the ultimate end of every creature. Comparing the glory of God to that of an earthly king, it is evident that nothing can be indifferent to that glory. The building material of his palace, its furniture, even the pavement before its gate, either enhance or diminish the royal splendor. Much more, however, is the king honored by the persons of his household, each in his degree, from the master of ceremonies to his prime minister. Yet his highest glory is his family of sons and daughters, begotten of his own blood, trained by his wisdom, animated by his ideals, one with him in the plans, purposes, and spirit of his life. Applying this in all reverence to the court of the King of heaven, it is evident that while every flower and star enhance His glory, the lives of angel’s and men are of much greater significance to His Kingdom; and again, while among the latter they are most closely related to His glory whom He has placed in positions of authority, nearest of all are, the children begotten by His Spirit, and admitted to the secret of His <pb n=“23”/> pavilion. We conclude, then, that God’s glory is reflected most in His children; and since no man can be His child unless he is begotten of Him, we confess that His glory is most apparent in His elect or in His Church.

His glory is not, however, confined to these; for they are related to the whole race, and live among all nations and peoples with whom they share the common lot. We neither may nor can separate their spiritual life from their national, social, and domestic life. And since all differences of national, social, and domestic life are caused by climate and atmosphere, meat and drink, rain and drought, plant and insect—in a word, by the whole economy of this material world, including comet and meteor, it is evident that all these affect the outcome of things and are related to the glory of God. Hence as connected with the task of leading creation to its destiny, the whole universe confronts the mind as a mighty unit organically related to the Church as the shell to the kernel.

In the accomplishment of this task the question arises in what way the fairest, noblest, and holiest part of the creation is to attain its destiny; for to this all other parts must be made subservient.


Hence the question, How are the multitude of the elect to attain their final perfection? The answer to this will indicate what is the Holy Spirit’s action upon all other creatures.

The answer can not be doubtful. God’s children can never accomplish their glorious end unless God dwell in them as in His temple. It is the love of God that constrains Him to live in His children, by their love for Him to love Himself, and to see the reflection of His glory in the consciousness of His own handiwork. This glorious purpose will be realized only when the elect know as they are known, behold their God face to face, and enjoy the felicity of closest communion with the Lord.

Since all this can be wrought in them only by His indwelling in their hearts, and since it is the Third Person in the Holy Trinity who enters the spirits of men and of angels, it is evident that God’s highest purposes are realized when the Holy Spirit makes man’s heart His dwelling-place. Who or what ever we are by education or position, we can not attain our highest destiny unless the Holy Spirit dwell in us and operate upon the inward organism of our being.

If this His highest work had no bearing upon anything else, we <pb n=“24”> might say that it consists merely in finishing the perfection of the creature. But this is not so. Every believer knows that there is a most intimate connection between his life before and after conversion; not as tho the former determined the latter, but in such a way that the life in sin and the life in the beauty of holiness are both conditioned by the same character and disposition, by similar circumstances and influences. Wherefore, to bring about our final perfection the Holy Spirit must influence the previous development, the formation of character, and the disposition of the whole person. And this operation, altho less marked in the natural life, must also be traced. However, since our personal life is only a manifestation of human life in general, it follows that the Holy Spirit must have been active also in the creation of man, altho in a less marked degree. And finally, as the disposition of man as such is connected with the host of heaven and earth, His work must touch the formation of this also, tho to a much less extent. Hence the Spirit’s work reaches as far as the influences that affect man in the attaining of his destiny or in the failure to attain it. And the measure of the influence is the degree in which they affect his perfecting. In the departure of the redeemed soul every one acknowledges a work of the Holy Spirit; but who can trace His work in the star-movements? Yet the Scripture teaches not only that we are born again by the power of the Spirit of God, but that: “by the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath [Spirit] of His mouth.”

Wherefore the Spirit’s work leading the creature to its destiny, includes an influence upon all creation from the beginning. And, if sin had not come in, we might say that this work is done in three successive steps: first, impregnating inanimate matter; second, animating the rational soul; third, taking up His abode in the elect child of God.

But sin entered in, i.e., a power appeared to keep man and nature from their destiny. Hence the Holy Spirit must antagonize sin; His calling is to annihilate it, and despite its opposition to cause the elect children of God and the entire creation to reach their end. Redemption is therefore not a new work added to that of the Holy Spirit, but it is identical with it. He undertook to bring all things to their destiny either without the disturbance of sin or in spite of it; first, by saving the elect, and then by restoring all things in heaven and on earth at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Things incidental to this, such as the inspiration of Scripture, the preparation of the Body of Christ, the extraordinary ministration of grace to the Church, are only connecting-links, connecting the beginning with its own predetermined end; that in spite of sin’s disturbance the destiny of the universe to glorify God might be secured.

Condensing all into one statement, we might say: Sin having once entered, a factor which must be taken into account, the Holy Spirit’s work shines most gloriously in gathering and saving the elect; prior to which are His operations in the work of redemption and in the economy of the natural life. The same Spirit who in the beginning moved upon the waters has in the dispensation of grace given us the Holy Scripture, the Person of Christ, and the Christian Church; and it is He who, in connection with the original creation and by these means of grace, now regenerates and sanctifies us as the children of God.

Regarding these mighty and comprehensive operations, it is of first importance to keep in view the fact that in each, He effects only that which is invisible and imperceptible. This marks all the Holy Spirit’s operations. Behind the visible world lies one invisible and spiritual, with outer courts and inner recesses; and underneath the latter are the unfathomable depths of the soul, which the Holy Spirit chooses as the scene of His labors—His temple wherein He sets up His altar.

Christ’s redemptive work also has visible and invisible parts. Reconciliation in His blood was visible. The sanctification of His Body and the adorning of His human nature with manifold graces were invisible. Whenever this hidden and inward work is specified the Scripture always connects it with the Holy Spirit. Gabriel says to Mary: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee.” It is said of Christ: “That He had the Spirit without measure.”

We observe also in the host of heaven a life material, outward, tangible which in thought we never associate with the Holy Spirit. But, however weak and impalpable, the visible and tangible has an invisible background. How intangible are the forces of nature, how full of majesty the forces of magnetism! But life underlies all. Even through the apparently dead trunk sighs an imperceptible breath. From the unfathomable depths of all an inward, hidden principle works upward and outward. It shows in nature, much more in man and angel. And what is this quickening and <pb n=“26”/> animating principle but the Holy Spirit? “Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit, they are created; Thou takest away Thy breath, they die.”

This inward, invisible something is God’s direct touch. There is in us and in every creature a point where the living God touches us to uphold us; for nothing exists without being upheld by Almighty God from moment to moment. In the elect this point is their spiritual life; in the rational creature his rational consciousness; and in all creatures, whether rational or not, their life-principle. And as the Holy Spirit is the Person in the Holy Trinity whose office it is to effect this direct touch and fellowship with the creature in his inmost being, it is He who dwells in the hearts of the elect; who animates every rational being; who sustains the principle of life in very creature.


<div3 title=“VI. The Host of Heaven and of Earth”>

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The Host of Heaven and of Earth.


“The Spirit of God hath made me.”—Job xxxiii. 4.


Understanding somewhat the characteristic note of the work of the Holy Spirit, let us see what this work was and is and shall be.

The Father brings forth, the Son disposes and arranges, the Holy Spirit perfects. There is one God and Father of whom are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ through whom are all things; but what does the Scripture say of the special work the holy Spirit did in creation and is still doing?

For the sake of order we examine first the account of the creation. God says in Gen. i. 2: “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the waters.” See also Job xxvi. 13: “By His Spirit He hath garnished the heavens; His hand hath formed the crooked serpent [the constellation of the Dragon, or, according to others, the Milky Way].” And also Job xxxiii. 4.: “The Spirit of God hath made me; and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.” And again Psalm xxxiii. 6: “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.” So also Psalm civ. 30: “Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit, they are created, and Thou renewest the face of the earth:” And with different import, in Isa. xl. 13: “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord [in creation], or being His counselor hath taught Him?”

These statements show that the Holy Spirit did a work of His own in creation.

They show, too, that His activities are closely connected with those of the Father and the Son. Psalm xxxiii, 6 presents them as almost identical. The first clause reads: “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made”; the second: “And all the host of them by the breath [Spirit] of His mouth.” It is well known that in Hebrew poetry parallel clauses express the same thought in <pb n=“28”/> different ways; so that from this passage it, appears that the work of the Word and that of the Spirit are the same, the latter adding only that which is peculiarly His own.

It should be noticed that hardly any of these passages mention the Holy Spirit by His own name. It is not the Holy Spirit, but the “Spirit of His mouth,” “His Spirit,” “the Spirit of the Lord.” On account of this, many hold that these passages do not refer to the Holy Spirit as the Third Person in the Holy Trinity, but speak of God as One, without personal distinction; and that the representation of God as creating anything by His hand, fingers, word, breath, or Spirit is merely a human way of speaking, signifying only that God was thus engaged.

The Church has always opposed this interpretation, and rightly so, on the ground that even the Old Testament, not merely in a few places but throughout its entire economy, bears undoubted testimony to the three divine Persons, coequal yet of one essence. It is true that this too has been denied, but by a wrong interpretation. And to the reply, “But our interpretation is as good as yours,” we answer that Jesus and the apostles are our authorities; the Church received its confession from their lips.

Secondly, we deny that “His Spirit” does not refer to the Holy Ghost, for the reason that in the New Testament similar expressions occur that undoubtedly do refer to Him, e.g., God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son” (Gal. iv. 6); “Whom the Lord shall consume by the Spirit of His mouth” (2 Thess. ii. 8); etc.

Thirdly, judging from the following passages,—“By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made” (Psalm xxxiii. 6); “And God said, Let there be light” (Gen. i. 3); and “All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John i. 3),—there can be no doubt that Psalm xxxiii. 6 refers to the Second Person in the Godhead. Hence also the second clause of the same verse, “And all their host by the Spirit of His mouth,” must refer to the Third Person.

Finally, to speak of a Spirit of God that is not the Holy Spirit is to transfer to the Holy Scripture a purely Western and human idea. We as men often speak of a wrong spirit which controls a nation, an army, or a school, meaning a certain tendency, inclination, or persuasion—a spirit that proceeds from a man distinct from his person and being. But this may not and can not apply to God. Speaking of Christ in His humiliation, one may rightly say, “To have <pb n=“29”/> the mind of Christ,” or “to have the spirit of Jesus,” which indicates His disposition. But to distinguish the divine Being from a spirit of that Being is to conceive of the Godhead in a human way. The divine consciousness differs wholly from the human. While in us there is a difference between our persons and our consciousness, with reference to God such distinctions disappear, and the distinction of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit takes their place.

Even in those passages where “the breath of His mouth” is added to explain “His Spirit,” the same interpretation must be maintained. For all languages show that our breathing, even as the “breathing of the elements” in the wind which blows before God’s face, corresponds to the being of spirit. Nearly all express the ideas of spirit, breath, and wind by cognate terms. Blowing or breathing is in all the Scripture the symbol of spirit-communication. Jesus breathed on them and said: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John xx. 22). Thus the breath of His mouth must signify the Holy Spirit.

The ancient interpretation of the Scripture should not be hastily abandoned. Accept the dictum of modern theology that the distinction of the three divine Persons is not found in the Old Testament, and allusions to the work of the Holy Spirit in Genesis, Job, Psalms, or Isaiah are out of the question. Consequently nothing is more natural for the supporters of this modern theology than to deny the Holy Spirit altogether in the passages referred to.

But if from inward conviction we still confess that the distinction of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is clearly seen in the Old Testament, then let us examine these passages concerning the Spirit of the Lord with discrimination, and gratefully maintain the traditional interpretation, which finds at least in many of these statements references to the work of the Holy Spirit.

These passages show that His peculiar work in creation was: 1st, hovering over chaos; 2d, creation of the host of heaven and of earth; 3d, ordering the heavens; 4th, animating the brute creation, and calling man into existence; and last, the operation whereby every creature is made to exist according to God’s counsel concerning it.

Hence the material forces of the universe do not proceed from the Holy Spirit, nor did He deposit in matter the dormant seeds and germs of life. His special task begins only after the creation of matter with the germs of life in it.

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The Hebrew text shows that the work of the Holy Spirit moving upon the face of the waters was similar to that of the parent bird which with outspread wings hovers over its young to cherish and cover them. The figure implies that not only the earth existed, but also the germs of life within it; and that the Holy Spirit impregnating these germs caused the life to come forth in order to lead it to its destiny.

Not by the Holy Spirit, but by the Word were the heavens created. And when the created heavens were to receive their host, then only did the moment come for the exercise of the Holy Spirit’s peculiar functions. What “the host of heaven” means is not easily decided. It may refer to sun, moon, and stars, or to the host of angels. Perhaps the passage means not the creation of the heavenly bodies, but their reception of heavenly glory and celestial fire. But Psalm xxxiii. 6 refers certainly not to the creation of the matter of which the heavenly host are composed, but to the production of their glory.

Gen. i. 2 reveals first the creation of matter and its germs, then their quickening; so Psalm xxxiii. 6 teaches first the preparation of the being and nature of the heavens, then the bringing forth of their host by the Holy Spirit. Job xxvi. 13 leads to a similar conclusion. Here is the same distinction between the heavens and their ordering, the latter being represented as the special work of the Holy Spirit. This ordering is the same as the brooding in Gen. i. 2, by which the formless took form, the hidden life emerged, and the things created were led to their destiny. Psalm civ. 30 and Job xxxiii, 4. illustrate the work of the Holy Spirit in creation still more clearly. Job informs us that the Holy Spirit had a special part in the making of man; and Psalm civ. that He performed a similar work in the creation of the animals, of the fowls and the fishes; for the two preceding verses imply that verse 27 “Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit, they are created”—refers not to man, but to the monsters that play in the deep.

Grant that the matter out of which God made man was already present in the dust of the earth, that the type of his body was largely present in the animal, and that the idea of man and the image after which he was to be created existed already; yet from Job xxxiii. 4 it is evident that he did not come to be without a special work of the Holy Spirit. So Psalm civ. 30 proves, that, altho the matter existed out of which whale and unicorn were to be <pb n=“31”/> made, and the plan or model was in the divine counsel, yet a special act of the Holy Spirit was needed to cause them to be. This is still plainer in view of the fact that neither passage refers to the first creation, but to a man and animals formed later. For Job speaks not of Adam and Eve, but of himself. He says: “The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.” In Psalm civ. David means not the monsters of the deep created in the beginning, but those that were walking the paths of the sea while he was singing this psalm. If, therefore, the bodies of existing man and of mammals are not immediate creations, but are taken from the flesh and blood, the nature and kind of existent beings, then it is more evident that the hovering of the Holy Spirit over the unformed is a present act; and that therefore His creative work was to bring out the life already hidden in chaos, i.e., in the germs of life.

This agrees with what was said at first of the general character of His work. “To lead to its destiny” is to bring forth the hidden life, to cause the hidden beauty to reveal itself, to rouse into activity the slumbering energies.

Only let us not represent it as a work performed in successive stages—first by the Father, whose finished work was taken up by the Son, after which the Holy Spirit completed the work thus prepared. Such representations are unworthy of God. There is distribution, no division, in the divine activities; wherefore Isaiah declares that the Spirit of the Lord, i.e., the Holy Spirit, throughout the entire work of creation, from the beginning—yea, from before the beginning—directed all that was to come.


<div3 title=“VII. The Creaturely Man”>

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The Creaturely Man.


“The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.”—Job xxxiii. 4.


The Eternal and Ever-blessed God comes into vital touch with the creature by an act proceeding not from the Father nor from the Son, but from the Holy Spirit.

Translated by sovereign grace from death unto life, God’s children are conscious of this divine fellowship; they know that it consists not in inward agreement of disposition or inclination, but in the mysterious touch of God upon their spiritual being. But they also know that neither the Father nor the Son, but the Holy Spirit, has made their hearts His temple. It is true Christ comes to us through the Holy Spirit, and through the Son we have fellowship with the Father, according to His word, “I and the Father will come unto you, and make Our abode with you”; yet every intelligent Bible student knows that it is more especially the Holy Spirit who enters into his person and touches his innermost being.

That the Son incarnate came into closer contact with us proves nothing to the contrary. Christ never entered into a human person. He took upon Himself our human nature, with which He united Himself much more closely than the Holy Spirit does; but He did not touch the inward man and his hidden personality. On the contrary, He said that it was expedient for the disciples that He should go away; “for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart I will send Him unto you.” Moreover, the Incarnation was not accomplished without the Holy Spirit, who overshadowed Mary; and the blessings that Christ imparted to all around Him were largely owing to the gift of the Holy Spirit, which was given Him without measure.

Hence the principal thought remains intact: When God comes into direct contact with the creature it is the work of the Holy <pb n=“33”/> Spirit to effect such contact. In the visible world this action consists in the kindling and fanning of the spark of life; hence it is quite natural and in full harmony with the general tenor of the teaching of Scripture that the Spirit of God moves upon the face of the waters, that He brings forth the host of heaven and earth, ordered, animated, and resplendent.

Besides this visible creation there is also an invisible, which, so far as our world is concerned, concentrates itself in the heart of man; hence, in the second place, we must see how far the work of the Holy Spirit may be traced in man’s creation.

Of the animal world we do not speak. Not as tho the Holy Spirit had nothing to do with their creation. From Psalm civ. 30 we have proven the contrary. Moreover, no one can deny the admirable traits of cunning, love, fidelity; and thankfulness in many of the animals. Not that we would be foolish on that ground to call the dog half human; for these higher animal properties are evidently but instinctive preformations, sketches of the Holy Spirit, carried to their proper destiny in man alone. And yet, however striking these traits may be, it is not a person that meets us in the animal. The animal proceeds from the world of matter, and returns to it; in man alone appears that which is new, invisible, and spiritual, justifying us in looking for a special work of the Holy Spirit in his creation.

Of himself, i.e., of a man, Job declares: “The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.” the Spirit of God hath made me. That which I am as a human personality is the work of the Holy Spirit. To Him I owe the human and personal that constitute me the being that I am. He adds: “The breath of the Almighty hath given me life”; which evidently echoes the words: “The Lord God breathed into His nostrils the breath of life.”

Like Job, we ought to feel and to acknowledge that in Adam you and I are created; when God created Adam He created us; in Adam’s nature He called forth the nature wherein we now live. Gen. i. and ii. is not the record of aliens, but of ourselves—concerning the flesh and blood which we carry with us, the human nature in which we sit down to read the Word of God.

He that reads his Bible without this personal application reads amiss. It leaves him cold and indifferent. It may charm him in the days of his childhood, when one is fond of tales and stories, but <pb n=“34”/> has no hold of him in the days of conflict, when he meets the stern facts and realities of life. But if we accustom ourselves to see in this record the history of our own flesh and blood, of our own human nature and life, and acknowledge that by human generation we spring from Adam, and therefore were in Adam when he was created—then we shall also know that when God formed Adam out of the dust He also formed us; that we also were in Paradise; that Adam’s fall was also ours. In a word, the first page of Genesis relates the history not of an alien, but of our own real selves. The breath of the Almighty gave us life, when the Lord formed man of the dust, and breathed into his nostrils and made him a living soul. The root of our life lies in our parents; but through and beyond them the tender fiber of that root goes back through the long line of generations, and received its earliest beginning when Adam first breathed God’s pure air in Paradise.

And yet, tho in Paradise we received the first inception of our being, there is also a second beginning of our life, viz., when from the race, by conception and birth, each of us was called into being individually. And of this also Job testifies: “The Spirit of the Lord hath given me life.”

And again, in the life of sinful man there comes a third beginning, when it pleases God to convert the wicked; and of this also the soul testifies within us: “The Spirit of the Lord hath given me life.”

Leaving this new birth out of the question, the testimony of Job shows us that he was conscious of the fact that he owed his existence as a man, as a person, as an ego, hence his creation in Adam as well as his personal being, to God.

And what does the Scripture teach us concerning the creation of man? This: that the dust of the ground out of which Adam was formed was so wrought upon that it became a living soul, which indicates the human being. The result was not merely a moving, creeping, eating, drinking, and sleeping creature, but a living soul that came into existence at the moment when the breath of life was breathed into the dust. It was not first the dust, and then human life within the dust, and after that the soul with all its higher faculties in that human, life; nay, as soon as life went forth into Adam, he was a man, and all his precious gifts were natural endowments.

Sinful man being born from above receives gifts that are above nature, For this reason the Holy Spirit merely dwells in the quickened <pb n=“35”/> sinner. But in heaven this will not be so; for in death the human nature is so completely changed that the impulse to sin disappears entirely; wherefore in heaven the Holy Spirit will work in the human nature itself for ever and ever. In the present state of humiliation the nature of the regenerate is still the Adam-nature. The great mystery of the work of the Holy Spirit in him is this: that in and by that broken and corrupt nature, He works the holy works of God. It is as light shining through our window-panes, but in no wise identical with the glass.

In Paradise, however, man’s nature was whole, intact, everything about him was holy. We must avoid the dangerous error that the newly created man had an inferior degree of holiness. God made man upright, with nothing crooked in or about him. All his inclinations and powers with all their workings were pure and holy. God delighted in Adam, saw that he was good; surely nothing more can be desired. In this respect Adam differed from the child of God by grace in not having eternal life; he was to attain this as the reward for holy works. On the other hand, Abraham, the father of the faithful, begins with eternal life, from which holy works were to proceed.

Hence a perfect contrast. Adam must attain eternal life by works. Abraham has eternal life through which he obtains holy works. Hence for Adam there can be no indwelling of the Holy Spirit. There was no antagonism between him and the Spirit. So the Spirit could pervade him, not merely dwell in him. The nature of sinful man repels the Holy Spirit, but Adam’s nature attracted Him, freely received Him, and let Him inspire his being.

Our faculties and inclinations are impaired, our powers are enervated, the passions of our hearts corrupt; hence the Holy Spirit must come to us from without. But since Adam’s faculties were all intact, and the whole expression of his inward life undisturbed; therefore could the Holy Spirit work through the common powers and operations of his nature. To Adam spiritual things were not a supernatural, but a natural good—except eternal life, which he must earn by fulfilling the law. Scripture expresses this unity between Adam’s natural life and spiritual powers by identifying the two expressions—“To breathe into the breath of life,” and “to become a living soul.”

Other passages shove that this divine “inbreathing” indicates especially the Spirit’s work. Jesus breathed upon His disciples <pb n=“36”/> and said: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” He compares the Holy Spirit to the wind. In both the Biblical languages, Hebrew and Greek, the word spirit means wind, breathing or blowing. And as the Church confesses that the Son is eternally generated by the Father, so it confesses that the Holy Spirit proceedeth from the Father and the Son as by breathing. Hence we conclude that the passage, “And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life “in connection with, “The Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters,” and the word of Job, “The Spirit of God hath given me life”—points to a special work of the Holy Spirit.

Before God breathed the breath of life in the lifeless dust, there was a conference in the economy of the divine Being: “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.” This shows—

First, that each divine Person had a distinct work in the creation of man—“Let Us make man.” Before this the singular is used of God—“He spake,” “He saw”; but now the plural is used, “Let Us make man,” which implies that, here specially and more clearly than in any preceding passage, the activities of the Persons are to be distinguished.

Secondly, that man was not created empty, afterward to be endowed with higher spiritual faculties and powers, but that the very act of creation made him after God’s image, without any subsequent addition to his being. For we read: “Let Us create man in Our image and after Our likeness.” This assures us that by immediate creation man received the impress of the divine image; that in the creation the divine Persons each performed a distinct work; and, lastly, that man’s creation with reference to his higher destiny was effected by a going forth of the breath of God.

This is the basis of our statement that the Spirit’s creative work was making all man’s powers and gifts instruments for His own use, connecting them vitally and immediately with the powers of God. This agrees with Biblical teachings regarding the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work, which also, tho differently, brings the power and holiness of God in immediate contact with human powers.

We deny, therefore, the frequent assertion of ethical theologians, that the Holy Spirit created the personality of man, since this opposes the entire economy of Scripture. For what is our personality but the realization of God’s plan concerning us? Such as God from eternity has thought each of us, as distinct from other men, <pb n=“37”/> with our own stamp, life-history, calling, and destiny—as such each must develop and show himself to become a person. Thus alone each obtains character; anything else so called is pride and arbitrariness.

If our personality result directly from God’s plan, then it and what we have in common with all other creatures can not be from the Holy Spirit, but from the Father; like all other things, it receives its disposition from the Son; and the Holy Spirit acts upon it as upon every other creature, by kindling the spark; imparting the glow of life.


<div3 title=“VIII. Gifts and Talents”>

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Gifts and Talents.


“And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him.”—Judges iii. 10.


We now consider the Holy Spirit’s work in bestowing gifts, talents, and abilities upon artisans and professional men. Scripture declares that the special animation and qualification of persons for work assigned to them by God proceed from the Holy Spirit.

The construction of the tabernacle required capable workmen, skilful carpenters: goldsmiths, and silversmiths, and masters in the arts of weaving and embroidering. Who will furnish Moses with them? The Holy Spirit. For we read in Exod. xxxi. 2, 3: “I have called by name Bezaleel, the son of Uri . . . . and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship.” Verse 6 shows that this activity of the Holy Spirit included others: “In the hearts of all that are wise-hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded them.” And to give clearest light on this subject, Scripture says also: “Then hath he filled with wisdom of heart, to work all manner of work of the engraver and of the cunning workman, and of the embroiderer in blue and in purple and in scarlet and in fine linen of the weaver, even of them that do any work and of these that devise cunning work.”

The Spirit’s working shows not only in ordinary skilled labor, but also in the higher spheres of human knowledge and mental activity; for military genius, legal acumen, statesmanship, and power to inspire the masses with enthusiasm are equally ascribed to it. This is generally expressed in the words, “And the Spirit of the Lord came upon” such a hero, judge, statesman, or tribune of the people, especially in the days of the judges, when it is said <pb n=“39”/> of Joshua, Othniel, Barak, Gideon, Samson, Samuel, and others, that the Spirit of the Lord came upon them. Also of Zerubbabel rebuilding the temple, it is said: “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.” Even of the heathen king, Cyrus, we read that Jehovah had called him to His work and anointed him with the Spirit of the Lord—Isa. xlv.

This last instance introduces another aspect of the case, viz., the operation of the Holy Spirit in qualifying men for official functions. For altho this operation upon and through the office receives its fullest significance only in the dispensation of grace, yet the case of Cyrus shows that the Holy Spirit has originally a work to perform in this respect which is not only a result of grace, but belongs essentially to the nature of the work, even tho it is obvious only in the history of God’s special dealings with His own people.

It is especially noticeable in the struggle between Saul and David. There is no reason to consider Saul one of God’s elect. After his anointing the Holy Spirit comes upon him, abides with him, and works upon him as long as he remains the Lord’s chosen king over His people. But as soon as by wilful disobedience he forfeits that favor, the Holy Spirit departs from him and an evil spirit from the Lord troubles him. Evidently this work of the Holy Spirit has nothing to do with regeneration. For a time it may operate upon a man and then forever depart from him; while the Spirit’s saving operation, even tho suspended for a time, can never be wholly lost. David’s touching prayer, “Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me,” must therefore refer to gifts qualifying him for the kingly office. David had the terrible example of Saul before him. He had seen what becomes of a man whom the Holy Spirit leaves to himself; and his heart trembled at the possibility of an evil spirit coming upon him, and an end as sad as Saul’s. Like Judas, Saul dies a suicide.

From the whole Scripture teaching we therefore conclude that the Holy Spirit has a work in connection with mechanical arts and official functions—in every special talent whereby some men excel in such art or office. This teaching is not simply that such gifts and talents are not of man but from God like all other blessings, but that they are not the work of the Father, nor of the Son, but of the Holy Spirit.

The distinction discovered in creation may be observed here: gifts and talents come from the Father; are disposed for each personality <pb n=“40”/> by the Son; and kindled in each by the Holy Spirit as by a spark from above.

Let us distinguish art itself, personal talent to practise it, and the vocation thereto.

Art is not man’s invention, but God’s creation. In all nations and ages men have pursued the arts of weaving, embroidering, skilful dressmaking, casting and chasing noble metals, cutting and polishing diamonds, molding iron and brass; and in all these countries and ages, without knowing of each other’s efforts, have applied the same arts to all these materials. Of course there is a difference. Oriental work bears a stamp quite different from that of the West. Even French and German work differ. But under the differences, the endeavor, the art applied, the material, the ideal pursued are the same. So, too, art did not attain perfection all at once; among the nations forms at first crude and awkward gradually developed into forms chaste, refined, and beautiful. Successive generations improved upon previous achievements, until among the various nations comparative perfection of art and skill was attained. Hence art is not the result of man’s thought and purpose; but God has placed in various materials certain possibilities of workmanship, and by applying this workmanship man must make out of each what there is in it, and not whatever he chooses.

Two things must cooperate to effect this. In the creation of gold, silver, wood, iron, God must have placed in them certain possibilities, and have created inventive power in man’s mind, perseverance in his will, strength in his muscle, accurate vision in his eye, delicacy of touch and action in his fingers, thus qualifying him to evolve what is latent in the materials. Since this labor has the same nature among all nations, the perpetual progress of the same great work being accomplished according to the same majestic plan, through successive generations, all artistic skill and executive ability must be wrought in man by a higher power and according to a higher command. Viewing the treasures of an industrial exposition in the light of the revealed Word, we shall see in their gradual development and genetic unity the downfall of human pride, and exclaim: “What is all this art and skill but the manifestation of the possibilities which God has placed in these materials, and of the powers of mind and eye and finger which He has given the children of men!”

Consider, now, personal talent as utterly distinct from art.

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The goldsmith in his craft and the judge in his office enter upon a work of God. Each labors in his divine vocation, and all the skill and judgment that he may develop therein come from the treasures of the Lord.

Still, workman differs from workman, general from general. The one copies the product of the generation before him and bequeaths it without increasing the artistic skill. He began as an apprentice, and imparts this skill to other apprentices; but the artistic proficiency is the same. The other manifests something akin to genius. He quickly surpasses his master; sees, touches, discovers something new. In his hand art is enriched. It is given him to transfer from the treasures of divine artistic skill new beauties into human skill.

So also of men in office and profession. Thousands of officers trained in our military schools become good teachers of the science of tactics as practised heretofore, but add nothing to it; while among these thousands there may be two or three possessed of military genius who in the event of war will astonish the world by their brilliant exploits.

This talent, this individual genius so intimately connected with man’s personality, is a gift. No power in the world can create it in the man that possesses it not. The child is born with or without it; if without it, no education nor severity—not even ambition—can call it forth. But as the gift of grace is freely bestowed by the sovereign God, so is also the gift of genius. When the people pray, let them not forget to ask the Lord to raise up among them men of talent, heroes of art and of office.

When in 1870 Germany had victory only, and France defeat only, it was God’s sovereignty that gave the former talented generals, and in displeasure denied them to the latter.

Consider the vocation.

Official and mechanical men have a high call. All have not the same ability. One is adapted for the sea, another for the plow. One is a bungler in the foundry, but a master at wood-carving, while another is the reverse. This depends upon the personality, nature, and inclination. And since the Holy Spirit lights the personality, He also determines every man’s calling to trade or profession. The same applies to the life of nations. The French excel in taste as well as in artistic workmanship; while the English seem created for the sea, our masters in all the markets of the <pb n=“42”/> world. The Holy Spirit even bestows artistic skill and talent upon a nation at one time and withdraws it at another. Three centuries ago Holland surpassed all Europe in weaving, making porcelain, printing, painting, and engraving. But how great the subsequent decline in this respect—altho now progress again appears.

What we find in Israel is related to this. This very thirst and capacity for knowledge had caused man to fall. The first impetus was given to artistic skill among Cain’s descendants; the Jubals and the Jabals and the Tubal-Cains were the first artists. And yet this whole development, altho feeding upon the treasures of God, departed more and more from Him, while His own people utterly lacked it. In the days of Samuel there was no smith found in all the land of Canaan. Hence the Spirit’s coming upon Bezaleel and Aholiab, upon Othniel and Samson, upon Saul and David; signifies something more than a mere imparting of artistic skill and talent; namely, the restoration of what sin had corrupted and defiled. And thus the illumination of a Bezaleel links the Holy Spirit’s work in the material creation and that in the dispensation of grace.


<div2 title=“Third chapter. Re-Creation”>

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Third Chapter.


<div3 title=“IX. Creation and Re-Creation”>


Creation and Re-Creation.


“Behold, I will pour out My Spirit unto you.”—Prov. i. 23.


We approach the special work of the Holy Spirit in Re-creation. We have seen that the Holy Spirit had a part in the creation of all things, particularly in creating man, and most particularly in endowing him with gifts and talents; also that His creative work affects the upholding of “things,” of “man,” and of “talents,” through the providence of God; and that in this double series of threefold activity the Spirit’s work is intimately connected with that of the Father and that of the Son, so that every thing, every man, every talent springs from the Father, is given disposition in their respective natures and being through the Son, and receives the spark of life by the Holy Spirit.

The old church hymn, “Veni, Creator Spiritus,” and the ancient confession of the Holy Spirit as the “Vivificans” agree with this perfectly. For the latter signifies that Person in the Trinity who imparts the spark of life; and the former means, “Seeing that the things which are to live and shall live are ready, come Holy Spirit and quicken them.”

There is always the same deep thought: the Father remains outside of the creature; the Son touches him outwardly; by the Holy Spirit the divine life touches him directly in his inward being.

However, let us not be understood to say that God comes into contact with the creature only in the regeneration of His children, <pb n=“44”/> which would be untrue. To the Gentiles at Athens, St. Paul says “In Him we live and move and have our being.” And again “For of His offspring we are.” To say nothing of plant or animal, there is on earth no life, energy, law, atom, or element but the Almighty and Omnipresent God quickens and supports that life from moment to moment, causes that energy to work, and enforces that law. Suppose that for an instant God should cease to sustain and animate this life, these forces, and that law; in that same instant they would cease to be. The energy that proceeds from God must therefore touch the creature in the very center of its being, whence, its whole existence must spring. Hence there is no sun, moon, nor star, no material, plant, or animal, and, in much higher sense, no man, skill, gift, or talent unless God touch and support them all.

It is this act of coming into immediate contact with every creature, animate or inanimate, organic or inorganic, rational or irrational, that, according to the profound conception of the Word of God, is performed not by the Father, nor by the Son, but by the Holy Spirit.

And this puts the work of the Holy Spirit in a light quite different from that in which for many years the Church has looked upon it. The general impression is that His work refers to the life of grace only, and is confined to regeneration and sanctification. This is due more or less to the well-known division of the Apostolic Creed by the Heidelberg Catechism, question 29, “How are these articles divided?” which is answered: “Into three parts—of God the Father and our creation, of God the Son and our redemption, and of God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.” And this, too, altho Ursinus, one of the authors of this catechism, had already declared, in his “Thesaurus,” that: “All the three Persons create and redeem and sanctify. But in these operations they observe this order—that the Father creates of Himself by means of the Son; the Son creates by means of the Father; and the Holy Spirit by means of both.”

But since the deeper insight into the mystery of the adorable Trinity was gradually lost, and the pulpit’s touch upon it became both rare and superficial, the Sabellian error naturally crept into the Church again, viz., that there were three successive periods in the activities of the divine Persons: First, that of the Father alone creating the world and upholding the natural life of all things. This was followed by a period of activity for the Son, when nature had <pb n=“45”/> become unnatural and fallen man a subject for redemption. Lastly, came that of the Holy Spirit regenerating and sanctifying the redeemed on the ground of the work of Christ.

According to this view, in childhood, when eating, drinking, and playing occupied all our time, we had to do with the Father. Later, when the conviction of sin dawned upon us, we felt the need of the Son. And not until the life of sanctification had begun in us did the Holy Spirit begin to take notice of us. Hence while the Father wrought, the Son and the Holy Spirit were inactive; when the Son undertook His work, the Father and the Holy Spirit were inactive; and now since the Holy Spirit alone performs the work, the Father and the Son are idle. But since this view of God is wholly untenable, Sabellius, who elaborated it philosophically, came to the conclusion that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were after all but one Person; who first wrought in creation as Father, then having become the Son wrought out our redemption, and now as the Holy Spirit perfects our sanctification.

And yet, inadmissible as this view may be, it is more reverent and God-fearing than the crude superficialities of the current views that confine the Spirit’s operations entirely to the elect, beginning only at their regeneration.

True, sermons on creation referred, in passing, to the moving of the Holy Spirit on the face of the waters, and His coming upon Bezaleel and Aholiab is treated in the catechetical class; but the two are not connected, and the hearer is never made to understand what the Author of our regeneration had to do with the moving upon the waters; they were merely isolated facts. Regeneration was the principal work of the Holy Spirit.

Our Reformed theologians have always warned against such representations, which are only the result of making man the starting-point in the contemplation of divine things. They always made God Himself the starting-point, and were not satisfied until the work of the Holy Spirit was clearly seen in all its stages, throughout the ages, and in the heart of every creature. Without, this the Holy Spirit could not be God, the object of their adoration. They felt that such superficial treatment would lead to a denial of His personality, reducing Him to a mere force.

Hence we have spared no pain, and omitted no detail, in order, by the grace of God, to place before the Church two distinct thoughts, viz.:

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First, The work of the Holy Spirit is not confined to the elect, and does not begin with their regeneration; but it touches every creature, animate and inanimate, and begins its operations in the elect at the very moment of their origin.

Second, The proper work of the Holy Spirit in every creature consists in the quickening and sustaining of life with reference to his being and talents, and, in its highest sense, with reference to eternal life, which is his salvation.

Thus we have regained the true standpoint requisite for considering the work of the Holy Spirit in the re-creation. For thus it appears:

First, that this work of re-creation is not performed in fallen man independently of his original creation; but that the Holy Spirit, who in regeneration kindles the spark of eternal life, has already kindled and sustained the spark of natural life. And, again, that the Holy Spirit, who imparts unto man born from above gifts necessary to sanctification and to his calling in the new sphere of life, has in the first creation endowed him with natural gifts and talents.

From this follows that fruitful confession of the unity of man’s life before and after the new birth which nips every form of Methodism[10] in its very root, and which characterizes the doctrine of the Reformed churches.

Second, it is evident that the work of the Holy Spirit bears the same character in creation and re-creation. If we admit that He quickens life in that which is created by the Father and by the Son, what does He do in the re-creation but once more quicken life in him that is called of the Father and redeemed by the Son? Again, if the Spirit’s work is God’s touching the creature’s being by Him, what is re-creation but the Spirit entering man’s heart, making it His temple, comforting, animating, and sanctifying it?

Thus following the Sacred Scripture and the superior theologians, we reach a confession that maintains the unity of the Spirit’s work, and makes it unite organically the natural and the spiritual life, the realm of nature and that of grace.

Of course His work in the latter surpasses that in the former:

First, since it is His work to touch the inward being of the creature, <pb n=“47”/> the more tender and natural the contact the more glorious the work. Hence it appears more beautiful in man than in the animal; and more lustrous in the spiritual man than in the natural, since the contact with the former is more intimate, the fellowship sweeter, the union complete.

Secondly, since creation lies so far behind us and re-creation touches us personally and daily, the Word of God directs more attention to the latter, claiming for it more prominence in our confession. But, however different the measures of operation and of energy, the Holy Spirit remains in creation and re-creation the one omnipotent Worker of all life and quickening, and is therefore worthy of all praise and adoration.


<div3 title=“X. Organic and Individual”>

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Organic and Individual.


“Where is He that put His Holy Spirit among them?”—Isa. lxiii. 11.


The subsequent activity of the Holy Spirit lies in the realm of grace.

In nature the Spirit of God appears as creating, in grace as re-creating. We call it re-creation, because God’s grace creates not something inherently new, but a new life in an old and degraded nature.

But this must not be understood as tho grace restored only what Sin had destroyed. For then the child of God, born anew and sanctified, must be as Adam was in Paradise before the fall. Many understand it so, and present it as follows: In Paradise Adam became diseased; the poison of eternal corruption entered his soul and penetrated his whole being. Now comes the Holy Spirit as the physician, carrying the remedy of grace to heal him. He pours the balm into his wounds, He heals his bruises and renews his youth; and thus man, born again, healed, and renewed, is, according to their view, precisely what the first man was in the state of rectitude. Once more the provisions of the covenant of works are laid upon him. By his good works he is again to inherit eternal life. Again he may fall like Adam and become a prey of eternal death.

But this whole view is wrong. Grace does not place the ungodly in a state of rectitude, but justifies him—two very different things. He that stands in a state of rectitude has certainly an original righteousness, but this he may lose; he may be tried and fail as Adam failed. He must vindicate his righteousness. Its inward consistency must discover itself. He who is righteous to-day may be unrighteous to-morrow.

But when God justifies a sinner He puts Him in a totally different state. The righteousness of Christ becomes his. And what is this righteousness? Was Jesus in a state of rectitude only? In no <pb n=“49”/> wise. His righteousness was tested, tried, and sifted; it was even tested by the consuming fire of God’s wrath. And this righteousness converted from “original rectitude” into “righteousness vindicated” was imputed to the ungodly.

Therefore the ungodly, when justified by grace, has nothing to do with Adam’s state before the fall, but occupies the position of Jesus after the resurrection. He possesses a good that can not be lost. He works no more for wages, but the inheritance is his own. His works, zeal, love, and praise flow, not from his own poverty, but from the overflowing fulness of the life that was obtained for him. As it is often expressed: For Adam in Paradise there was first work and then the Sabbath of rest; but for the ungodly justified by grace the Sabbath rest comes first, and then the labor which flows from the energies of that Sabbath. In the beginning the week closed with the Sabbath; for us the day of the resurrection of Christ opens the week which feeds upon the powers of that resurrection.

Hence the great and glorious work of re-creation has two parts:

First, the removing of corruption, the healing of the breach, the death to sin, the atonement for guilt.

Second, the reversing of the first order, the changing of the entire state, the bringing in and establishing of a new order.

The last is of greatest importance. For many teach differently. Altho they grant that a new-born child of God is not precisely what Adam was before the fall, yet they see the difference only in the reception of a higher nature. The state is the same, differing only in degree. This is the current theory. This nature of higher degree is called the “divine-human,” which Christ bears in His Person, which being consolidated by His Passion and Resurrection is now imparted to the new-born soul, raising the lower and degraded nature to this higher life.

This theory directly conflicts with the Scripture, which never speaks of conditions similar yet differing in degree and power, but of a condition sometimes far inferior in power and degree to that of Adam, but transferred into an entirely different order.

For this reason the Scripture and the Confession of our fathers emphasize the doctrine of the Covenants; for the difference between the Covenant of Works and of Grace shows the difference between the two orders of spiritual things. They who teach that the new birth merely imparts a higher nature remain under the <pb n=“50”/> Covenant of Works. Theirs is the wearisome toil of rolling the Sisyphus stone up the mountain, even tho it be with the greater energy of the higher life. The Scriptural doctrine of Grace ends this impossible Sisyphus task; it transfers the Covenant of Works from our shoulders to Christ’s, and opens unto us a new order in the Covenant of Grace in which there can be no more uncertainty or fear, loss or forfeit of the benefits of Christ, but of which Wisdom doth cry, “and Understanding putteth forth her voice, standing in the top of high places,” saying that all things are now ready.

The work of re-creation has this peculiarity, that it places the elect at once at the end of the road. They are not like the traveler still half way from home, but like one who has finished his journey; the long, dreary, and dangerous road is entirely behind him. Of course, he did not run that road; he could never have reached the goal. His Mediator and Daysman traveled it for him—and in his stead. And by mystic union with his Savior it is as tho he had traveled the whole distance; not as we reckon, but as God reckons.

This will show why the work of the Holy Spirit appears more powerful in re-creation than in creation. For, what is the road spoken of, but that which leads from the center of our degenerate, hearts to the center of the loving heart of God? All godliness aims to bring man into communion with God; hence to make him travel the road between him and God. Man is the only being on earth in whom contact with God means conscious fellowship. Since this fellowship is broken by the alienation of sin, at the end of the road the contact and fellowship must be perfect, so far as concerns man’s state and principle. If fellowship is the terminus and God’s grace puts His child there at once, at least so far as his state is concerned, there is an obvious difference between him and the unregenerate; for the latter is infinitely distant from God, while the former has sweetest fellowship with Him. Since it is the inward operation of the Holy Spirit that accomplishes this, His hand must appear more powerful and glorious in re-creation than in creation.


If we could see His work in re-creation all at once as an accomplished fact, we should understand it more thoroughly and escape the difficulties that we now meet in comparing the Old Testament with the New regarding it.

Re-creation brings to us that which is eternal, finished, perfected, <pb n=“51”/> completed; far above the succession of moments, the course of years, and the development of circumstances. Here lies the difficulty. This eternal work must be brought to a temporal world, to a race which is in process of development; hence that work must make history, increasing like a plant, growing, blossoming, and bearing fruit. And this history must include a time of preparation, revelation, and lastly of filling the earth with the streams of grace, salvation, and blessing.

If it did not relate to man but to irrational beings, there would be no difficulty; but when it began its course man was already in the world, and as the ages passed the stream of humanity broadened. Hence the important question: Whether the generations that lived during the long period of preparation before Christ, in whom the work of re-creation was finally revealed, were partakers of its blessings?

The Scripture answers affirmatively. In the ages before Christ God’s elect shared the blessings of the work of re-creation. Abel and Enoch, Noah and Abraham, Moses and David, Isaiah and Daniel were saved by the same faith as Peter, Paul, Luther, and Calvin. The Covenant of Grace, altho made with Abraham and for a time connected with the national life of Israel, existed already in Paradise. The theologians of the Reformed churches have clearly unfolded the truth, that God’s elect of both Dispensations entered the same gate of righteousness and walked the same way of salvation which they still walk to the marriage-supper of the Lamb.

But how could Abraham, living so many years before Christ, in whom alone grace and truth have been revealed, have his faith, accounted unto him for righteousness, so that he saw the day of Jesus and was glad?

This difficulty has confused many minds regarding the Old and New Dispensations, and causes many vainly to ask: How could there be any saving operation of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament if He were poured out only on Pentecost? The answer is found in the almost unsearchable work of the Holy Spirit, whereby, on the one hand, He brought into the history of our race that eternal salvation already finished and complete which must run through the periods of preparation, revelation, and fruit-bearing; and, whereby, on the other hand, during the preparatory period, this very preparation was made the means, through wondrous grace, of saving souls even before the Incarnation of the Word.


<div3 title=“XI. The Church Before and After Christ”>

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The Church Before and After Christ.


“All these having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise.”—Heb. xi. 39.


Clearness requires to distinguish two operations of the Holy Spirit in the work of re-creation before the Advent, viz., (1) preparing redemption for the whole Church, and (2) regenerating and sanctifying the saints then living.

If there had been no elect before Christ, so that He had no church until Pentecost; and if, like Balaam and Saul, the bearers of the Old Testament revelation had been without personal interest in Messiah, then it is self-evident that, before the Advent, the Holy Spirit could have had but one work of re-creation, viz., the preparation of the coming salvation. But since God had a church from the beginning of the world, and nearly all the bearers of the revelation were partakers of His salvation, the Spirit’s re-creative work must consist of two parts: first, of the preparation of redemption for the whole Church; and, secondly, of the sanctification and consolation of the Old Testament saints.

However, these two operations are not independent, like two separate water-courses, but are like drops of rain falling in the same stream of revelation. They are not even like two streams of different colors mingling in the same riverbed; for neither did the one contain anything for the Church of the future which had not meaning also for the saints of the Old Covenant; nor did the latter receive any revelation or commandment without significance also for the Church of the New Covenant. The Holy Spirit so interwove and interlaced this twofold work that what was the preparing of redemption for us, was at the same time revelation and exercise of faith for the Old Testament saints; while, on the other hand, He used their personal life, conflict, suffering, and hope as the canvas upon which He embroidered the revelation of redemption for us. <pb n=“53”/>

Not that the revelation of old did not contain a large element that had a different sense and purpose for them from what it has for us. Before Christ, the entire service of types and shadows had significance which it lost immediately after the Advent. To continue it after the Advent would be equivalent to a denial and repudiation of His coming. One’s shadow goes before him; when he steps into the light the shadow disappears. Hence the Holy Spirit performed a special work for the saints of God by giving them a temporary service of types and shadows.

That this service overshadowed all their life made its impression all the stronger. This shadow lay upon Israel’s entire history; was outlined in all their men from Abraham to John the Baptist; fell upon the judicial and political systems, and more heavily upon the social and domestic life; and in purest images lay upon the service of worship. Hence the Old Testament passages which refer to this service have not the meaning for us which they had for them. Every feature of it had a binding force for them. On the contrary, we do not circumcise our boys, but baptize our children; we do not eat the Passover, nor observe the Feast of Tabernacles, nor sacrifice the blood of bulls or heifers, as every discriminating reader of the Old Testament understands. And they who in the New Testament Dispensation seek to reintroduce tithing, or to restore the kingdom and the judiciary of the days of the Old Testament, undertake, according to past experience, a hopeless task: their efforts show poor success, and their whole attitude proves that they do not enjoy the full measure of the liberty of the children of God. Actually all Christians agree in this, acknowledging that the relation which we sustain toward the law of Moses is altogether different from that of ancient Israel.

The Decalogue alone is occasionally cause of contention, especially the Fourth Commandment. There are still Christians who allow no difference between that which has a passing, ceremonial character and that which is perpetually ethical, and who seek to substitute the last day of the week for the Day of the Lord.

However, leaving these serious differences alone, we repeat that the Holy Spirit had a special work in the days before Christ, which was intended for the saints of those days, but which has lost for us all its former significance.

Not, however, that we may therefore discard this work of the Holy Spirit, and that the books containing these things may be left <pb n=“54”/> unread. This view has obtained currency—especially in Germany; where the Old Testament is less read than even the books of the Apocrypha, with the exception of the Psalms and a few selected pericopes. On the contrary, this service of shadows has even in the smallest details a special significance to the New Testament Church; only the significance is different.

This service in the history of the Old Covenant witnesses to us the wonderful deeds of God, whereby of infinite mercy He has delivered us, from the power of death and hell. In the personalities of the Old Covenant it reveals the wonderful work of God in implanting and preserving faith in spite of human depravity and Satanic opposition. The service of ceremonies in the sanctuary shows us the image of Christ and of His glorious redemption in the minutest details. And finally, the service of shadows in Israel’s political, social, and domestic life reveals to us those divine, eternal, and unchangeable principles that, set free from their transient and temporal forms, ought to govern the political and social life of the Christian nations throughout all ages.

And yet this does not exhaust the significance that this service always had, and still has, for the Christian Church.

Not only does it reveal to us the outlines of the spiritual house of God, but it actually operated in our salvation:

First, it prepared and preserved amid heathen idolatry a people: which, as bearers of the divine oracles, offered the Christ at His coming a place for the sole of His foot and a base of operations.[11] He could no more have come to Athens or Rome than to China or India. No one there could have understood Him, or have furnished instrument or material to build the Church of the New Covenant, The salvation which was cast like a ripe fruit info the lap of the Christian Church had grown upon a tree deeply rooted in this service of shadows. Hence the history of that period is part of our own, as the life of our childhood and youth remains ours, even tho as men we have put away childish things.

Secondly, the knowledge of this service and history, being parts of the lord of God, were instrumental in translating God’s children from nature’s darkness into His marvelous light.

However, as the Holy Spirit performed special work for the saints of those days that has a different tho not less important <pb n=“55”/> significance for us, so also He performed a work in those days that was intended more directly for the Church of the New Testament, which also had a different but not less important significance for the saints of the Old Covenant. This was the work of Prophecy.

As Christ declares, the purpose of prophecy is to predict future things so that, the events predicted having come to pass, the Church may believe and confess that it was the Lord’s work. The Old Testament often states this, and the Lord Jesus declared it to His disciples, saying: “And now I have told you, before it come to pass that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe” (John xiv. 29). And again: “Now I tell you before it come to pass, that when it is come to pass ye may believe that I am He” (John xiii. 19). And still more clearly: “But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them.” These statements, compared with the words of Isa. xli. 23, xlii. 9, and xliii. 19, leave no doubt as to the design of prophecy.

Not that this exhausts prophecy, or that it has no other aims; but its chief and final end is reached only when, on the ground of its fulfilment, the Church believes its God and Savior and magnifies Him in His mighty acts.

But while its center of gravity is the fulfilment, i.e., in the Church of the New Testament, it was equally intended for contemporary saints. For, apart from the prophetic activities that referred solely to the people of Israel living at that time, and the prophecies fulfilled in Israel’s national life, prophecy even as boldly outlining Christ yielded precious fruit for the Old Testament saints. Connected with theophanies it produced in their minds such a fixed and tangible form of the Messiah that fellowship with Him, which alone is essential to salvation, was made possible to them by anticipation, as to us by memory. Not only did this fellowship become possible at the end of the Dispensation, in Isaiah and Zacharias; Christ testifies that Abraham desired to see His day, saw it, and was glad.

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<div2 title=“Fourth Chapter. The Holy Scripture of the Old Testament”>

Fourth Chapter


<div3 title=“XII. The Holy Scripture”>


The Holy Scripture.


“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”—2 Tim iii. 16, 17.


Among the divine works of art produced by the Holy Spirit, the Sacred Scripture stands first. It may seem incredible that the printed pages of a book should excel His spiritual work in human hearts, yet we assign to the Sacred scripture the most conspicuous place without hesitation.

Objectors can never have considered what this holy Book is, or any other book, writing, or language is, or what the putting down of a world of thought in a collection of Sacred Scripture means. We deny that a book, especially such as the Sacred Scripture, opposes a world of divine thought, the current of life, and spiritual experience. A book is not merely paper printed in ink, but is like a portrait—a collection of lines and features in which we see the likeness of a person. Standing near, we see not the person, but spots and lines of paint; but at the right distance these disappear and we see the likeness of a person. Even now it does not speak to us, for it is the face of a stranger; we may be able to judge the man’s character, yet he fails to interest us. But let his child look, and instantly the image which left us cold appeals to him with warmth <pb n=“57”/> and life, which were invisible to us because our hearts lacked the essentials. What appeals to the child is not in the picture, but in his memory and imagination; the cooperation of the features in the painting and the father’s image in his heart makes the likeness speak.

This comparison will explain the mysterious effect of the Scripture. Guido de Bres spoke of it in his debates with the Baptists: “That which we call Holy Scripture is not paper with black impressions, but that which addresses our spirits by means of those impressions.” Those letters are but tokens of recognition; those words are only the clicks of the telegraph-key signaling thoughts to our spirits along the lines of our visual and auditory nerves. And the thoughts so signaled are not isolated and incoherent, but parts of a complete system that is directly antagonistic to man’s thoughts, yet enters their sphere.

Reading the Scripture brings to our minds the sphere of divine thoughts so far as needful for us as sinners, in order to glorify God, love our neighbor, and save the soul. This is not a mere collection of beautiful and glittering ideas, but the reflection of the divine life. In God life and thought are united: there can be no life without thought, no thought not the product of life. Not so with us. Falsehood entered us, i.e., we can sever thought from life. Or rather, they are always severed, unless we have voluntarily established the former unity. Hence our cold abstractions; out speaking without doing; our words without power; our thoughts without working; our books that, like plants cut off from their loots, wither before they can blossom, much less bear fruit.

The difference between divine and human life gives Scripture its uniqueness and precludes antagonism between its letter and its, spirit, such as a false exegesis of 2 Cor. iii. 6 might suggest. If the Word of God were dominated by the falsehood that has crept into our hearts, and in the midst of our misery continues to place word and life in opposition as well as separation, then we would take refuge in the standpoint of our dissenting brethren, with their exaltation of the life above the Word. But we need not do so, for the opposition and separation are not in the Scripture. For this reason it is the Holy Scripture; for it was not lost in the unholy tearing asunder of thought and life, and is therefore distinct from writings in which yawns the gulf between the words and the reality of life. What other writings lack is in this Book, perfect agreement <pb n=“58”/> between the life reflected in the divine thought and the thoughts which the Word begets in our minds.

The Holy Scripture is like a diamond: in the dark it is like a piece of glass, but as soon as the light strikes it the water begins to sparkle, and the scintillation of life greets us. So the Word of God apart from the divine life is valueless, unworthy even of the name of Sacred Scripture. It exists only in connection with this divine life, from which it imparts life-giving thoughts to our minds. It is like the fragrance of a flower-bed that refreshes us only when the flowers and our organs of smell correspond. Hence the illustration of the child and his father’s picture is exact.

While the Bible always flashes thoughts born of the divine life, yet the effects are not the same in all. As a whole, it is the portrait of Him who is the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of His Person, aiming either to show us His likeness or to serve as its background.

Notice the difference when a child of God and an alien face that image. Not as tho it has nothing to say to the unregenerate—this is a mistake of Methodism which should be corrected.[12] It addresses itself to all men as the King’s Word, and every one must receive its impress in his own way. But while the alien sees only a strange face, which annoys him, contradicts his world, and so repels him, the child of God understands and recognizes it. He is in holiest sympathy with the life of the world from which that image greets him. Thus reading what the stranger could not read, he feels that God is speaking to him, whispering peace to his soul.

Not as tho the Scripture were only a system of signals to flash thought into the soul; rather it is the instrument of God to awaken and increase spiritual life, not as by magic, giving a sort of attestation of the genuineness of our experience—a fanatical view always opposed and rejected by the Church—but by the Holy Spirit, through the use of the Word of God.

He regenerates us by the Word. The mode of this operation will be discussed later on; let it suffice here to say that the operations of the Word and the Holy Spirit never oppose each other, but, as St. Paul declares emphatically, that the Holy Scripture is prepared by the Spirit of God and given to the Church as an instrument to perfect God’s work in man; as he expresses it: “That the <pb n=“59”/> man of God may be perfect,” i.e., a man formerly of the world, made a man of God by divine act, to be perfected by the Holy Spirit; wherefore he is already perfect in Christ through the Word. To this end, as St. Paul declares, the Scripture was inspired of God. Hence this work of art was prepared by the Holy Spirit to lead the new-born man to this high ideal. And to emphasize the thought he adds: “That he may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

Hence Scripture serves this twofold purpose:

First, as an instrument of the Holy Spirit in His work upon a man’s heart.

Secondly, to qualify man perfectly and to equip him for every good work.

Consequently the working of Scripture embraces not only the quickening of faith, but also the exercise of faith. Therefore instead of being a dead-letter, unspiritual, mechanically opposing the spiritual life, it is the very fountain of living water, which, being opened, springs up to eternal life.

Hence the Spirit’s preparation and preservation of Scripture is not subordinate, but prominent with reference to the life of the entire Church. Or to put it more clearly: if prophecy; e.g., aims first to benefit contemporary generations, and secondly to be part of the Holy Scripture that is to minister comfort to the Church of all ages, the latter is of infinitely higher importance. Hence the chief aim of prophecy was not to benefit the people living at that time, and through Scripture to yield fruit for us only indirectly, but through Scripture to yield fruit for the Church of all ages, and indirectly to benefit the Church of old.

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<div3 title=“XIII. The Scripture a Necessity”>


The Scripture a Necessity.


“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”—Rom. xv. 4.


That the Bible is the product of the Chief Artist, the Holy Spirit; that He gave it to the Church and that in the Church He uses it as His instrument, can not be over-emphasized.

Not as tho He had lived in the Church of all ages, and given us in Scripture the record of that life, its origin and history, so that the life was the real substance and the Scripture the accident; rather the Scripture was the end of all that preceded and the instrument of all that followed.

With the dawn of the Day of days the Sacred Volume will undoubtedly disappear. As the New Jerusalem will need no sun, moon, or temple, but the Lord God will be its light, so will there be no need of Scripture, for the revelation of God shall reach His elect directly through the unveiled Word. But so long as the Church is on earth, face-to-face communion withheld, and our hearts accessible only by the avenues of this imperfect existence, Scripture must remain the indispensable instrument by which the Triune God prepares men’s souls for higher glory.

The cause of this lies in our personality. We think, we are self-conscious, and the threefold world about and above and within us is reflected in our thoughts. The man of confused or unformed consciousness or one insane can not act as a man. True, there are depths in our hearts which the plummet of our thinking has not sounded; but the influence that is to affect us deeply, clearly, with outlasting effect upon our personality, must be wrought through our self-consciousness.

The history of sin proves it. How did sin enter the world? Did Satan infuse its poison into man’s soul while he slept? By no means. <pb n=“61”/> While Eve was fully herself, Satan began to discuss the matter with her. He wrought upon her consciousness with words and representations, and she, allowing this, drank the poison, fell, and dragged her husband with her. Had not God thus foretold it? Man’s fall was to be known neither by his recognized nor by his unrecognized emotions, but by the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The knowledge that caused his fall was not merely abstract, intellectual, but vital. Of course the operating cause was external, but it wrought upon his consciousness and bore the form of knowledge.

And as his fall, so also must be his restoration. Redemption must come from without, act upon our consciousness, and bear the form of knowledge. To affect and win us in our personality we must be touched in the very spot where sin first wounded us, viz., in our proud and haughty self-consciousness. And since our consciousness mirrors itself in a world of thought—thoughts expressed in words so intimately connected as to form, as it were, but one word—therefore it was of the highest necessity that a new, divine world of thought should speak to our consciousness in a Word, i.e., in a Scripture. And this is the work of Holy Scripture.

Our thought-world is full of falsehood, and so is the outer world. But one thought-world is absolutely true, and that is the world of God’s thoughts. Into this world we must be brought, and it into us with the life that belongs to it, as brightness to light. Therefore redemption depends upon faith. To believe is to acknowledge that the entire world of thought within and around us is false, and that only God’s world of thought is true and abiding, and as such to accept and confess it. So it is still the Tree of knowledge. But the fruit now taken and enjoyed grows upon the inward plant of self-emptying and self-denial, whereby we renounce our own entire world of thought, no longer judging between good and evil, but faithfully repeating what God teaches, as ever little children in His school.


But this would not avail us if God’s thoughts came in unintelligible words, which would have been the case if the Holy Spirit had used mere words. We know how hopeless it is to try to describe the felicities of heaven. Every effort has been so far a failure. That bliss passes our imagination. And the Scripture revelation concerning it is couched in earthly imagery—as a Paradise, a Jerusalem, or a wedding-feast—which, beautiful as it may be, leaves no <pb n=“62”/> clear impressions. We know heaven must be beautiful and entrancing, but a concrete conception of it is out of the question. Nor can we have clear ideas of the relation of the glorified Son of man to the Trinity, His sitting at the right hand of God, the life of the redeemed, and their condition when, passing from the chambers of death, they enter the palace of the great King.

Hence if the Holy Spirit had presented the world of divine thoughts concerning our salvation in writing directly from heaven, a clear conception of the subject would have been impossible. Our conception would have been vague and figurative as that concerning heaven. Hence these thoughts were not directly written, but translated into the life of this world, which gave them form and shape; and thus they came down to us in human language, in the pages of a book. Without this there could not even be a language to embody such sacred and glorious realities. St. Paul had visions, i.e., he was freed from the limitations of consciousness and enabled to contemplate heavenly things; but having returned to his limitations, could not speak of what he had seen, as he said: “They are unspeakable.”

And that the equally unspeakable things of salvation may be rendered expressible in human words, it pleased God to bring to this world the life which originated them; to accustom our human consciousness to them, from it to draw words for them, and thus to exhibit them to every man.

God’s thoughts are inseparable from His life; hence His life must enter the world before His thoughts, at least at first; afterward the thoughts became the vehicle of the life.

This appears in the creation of Adam. The first man is created; after him men are born. At first human life appeared at once in full stature; from that life once introduced, new life will be born. First, new life originated by forming Eve from Adam’s rib; then, by the union of man and woman. So also here. At first God introduced spiritual life into the world, finished, perfect, by a miracle; afterward differently, since the thought introduced as life into this world is pictured to our view. Henceforth the Holy Spirit will use the product of this life to awaken new life.

So redemption can not begin with the gift of Holy Scripture to the Church of the Old Covenant. Such Scripture could not be produced until its content is wrought out in life, and redemption is objectively accomplished.

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But the two should not be separated. Redemption was not first completed and then recorded in Scripture. Such conception would be mechanical and unspiritual, directly contradicted by the nature of Scripture, which is living and life-giving. Scripture was produced spontaneously and gradually by and from redemption. The promise in Paradise already foreshadowed it. For tho redemption precedes Scripture, yet in the regeneration of the first men the Word was not idle; the Holy Spirit began with speaking to man, acting upon his consciousness. Even in Paradise, and subsequently when the stream of revelation proceeds, a divine Word always precedes the life and is life’s instrument, and a divine thought introduces redemptive work. And when redemption is fulfilled in Christ He appears first as the Speaker, then as the Worker. The Word that was from the beginning reveals Himself to Israel as the Seal of Prophecy, saying: “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.”

Hence the work of the Holy Spirit is never purely magical nor mechanical. Even in the preparatory period He always acted through the Word in translating a soul from death unto life. However, between then and now there is a decided difference:

First, then, the Word came to the soul directly by inspiration or by a prophet’s address. Now, both these have ceased, and in their stead comes the Word sealed in the Sacred Scripture, interpreted by the Holy Spirit in preaching in the Church.

Secondly, then, the bringing in of life was confined to Israel, expressed itself in words and originated relations that strictly separated the servants of the only true God from the life of the world. Now, this extraordinary, preparatory dispensation is closed; the Israel of God are no more the natural descendants of Abraham, but the spiritual; the stream of the Church flows through all nations and peoples; it stands no more outside the world’s life and development, but rather governs them.

Thirdly, altho in the Old Dispensation redemption existed partly already in Scripture, and the Psalmist shows everywhere his devotion thereto, yet Scripture could be used so to a small extent only, and needed constant supplementing by direct revelations and prophecies. But, now, Scripture reveals the whole counsel of God, and nothing can be added to it. Wo to him who dares diminish or increase this Book of Life which discloses the world of divine thought!

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But notwithstanding differences, the fact remains that the Holy Spirit mastered the problem of bringing to man lost in sin, by human language intelligible to all nations and ages, the world of divine thoughts; so as to use them as the instrument of man’s quickening.

It does not alter the case that the Holy Scripture shows so many seams and uneven places, and looks different from what we should expect. The chief virtue of this masterpiece was so to enfold God’s thoughts in our sinful life that out of our language they could form a speech in which to proclaim through the ages, to all nations, the mighty words of God. This masterpiece is finished and lies before us in the Holy Scripture. And instead of losing itself in criticizing these apparent defects, the Church of all ages has received it with adoration and thanksgiving; has preserved it, tasted it, enjoyed it, and always believed to find eternal life in it.

Not as tho critical and historical examination were prohibited. Such endeavor for the glory of God is highly commendable. But as the physiologist’s search for the genesis of human life becomes sinful if immodest or dangerous to unborn life, so does every criticism of Holy Scripture become sinful and culpable if irreverent or seeking to destroy the life of God’s Word in the consciousness of the Church.


<div3 title=“XIV. The Revelation to Which the Scripture of the Old Testament Owes Its Existence”>

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The Revelation to Which the Scripture of the Old Testament Owes Its Existence.


“O Lord, . . . Thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed.”—Jer. xx. 7.


The understanding of the Holy Spirit’s work in Scripture requires us to distinguish the preparation, and the formation that was the outcome of the preparation. We will discuss these two separately.

The Holy Spirit prepared for Scripture by the operations which from Paradise to Patmos supernaturally apprehended the sinful life of this world, and thus raised up believing men who formed the developing Church.

This will seem very foolish if we consider the Scripture a mere paper-book, a lifeless object, but not if we hear God speaking therein directly to the soul. Severed from the divine life, the Scripture is unprofitable, a letter that killeth. But when we realize that it radiates God’s love and mercy in such form as to transform our life and address our consciousness, we see that the supernatural revelation of the life of God must precede the radiation. The revelation of God’s tender mercies must precede their scintillation in the human consciousness. First, the revelation of the mystery of Godliness; then, its radiation in the Sacred Scripture, and thence into the heart of God’s Church, is the natural and ordained way.

For this purpose the Holy Spirit first chose individuals, then a few families, and lastly a whole nation, to be the sphere of His activities; and in each stage He began His work with the Word, always following the Word of Salvation with the Facts of Salvation.

He began this work in Paradise. After the fall, death and condemnation reigned over the first pair, and in them entombed the race. Had the Spirit left them to themselves, with the germ of death ever developing in them, no star of hope would ever have arisen for the human race.

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Therefore the Holy Spirit introduces His work at the very beginning of the development of the race. The first germ of the mystery of Godliness was already implanted in Adam, and the first mother-word of which the Holy Scripture was to be born was whispered into his ear.

This word was followed by the deed. God’s word does not return void; it is not a sound, but a power. It is a plowshare subsoiling the soul. Behind the word stands the propelling power of the Holy Spirit, and thus it becomes effectual, and changes the whole condition of things. We see it in Adam and Eve; especially in Enoch; and “By faith Abel obtained witness that he was righteous.”


After these operations in individuals the Spirit’s work in the family begins, partly in Noah, more especially in Abraham.

The judgment of the flood had completely changed former relations, had caused a new generation to arise, and perhaps had changed the physical relations between the earth and its atmosphere. And then, for the first time, the Holy Spirit begins to work in the family. Our Ritual of Baptism points emphatically to Noah and his eight, which has often been a stumbling-block to a thoughtless unspirituality. And yet needlessly, for by pointing to Noah our fathers meant to indicate, in that sacramental prayer, that it is not the baptism of individuals, but of the people of God, i.e., of the Church and its seed. And since the salvation of families emerges first in the history of Noah and his family after the flood, it was perfectly correct to point to the salvation of Noah and his family as God’s first revelation of salvation for us and our seed.

But the work of the Holy Spirit in Noah’s family is only preliminary. Noah and his sons still belong to the old world. They formed a transition. After Noah the holy line disappears, and from Shem to Terah the Holy Spirit’s work remains invisible. But with Terah it appears in clearest light; for now Abraham goes out, not with sons, but alone. The promised son was still resting in the hand of God. And he could not beget him but by faith; so that God could truly say, “I am the Almighty God,” i.e., a God “who quickeneth the dead and calleth the things that are not as tho they were.” Hence Abraham’s family is almost in literal sense the product of the Holy Spirit’s work in that there is nothing in his life without faith. The product of art in Abraham’s history is not the image of a pious shepherd-king or virtuous patriarch, but the wonderful <pb n=“67”/> work of the Holy Spirit operating in an old man—who again and again “kicks against the pricks,” who brings forth out of his own heart nothing but unbelief—working in him a stedfast and immovable faith, bringing that faith into direct connection with his family life. Abraham is called “the Father of the Faithful,” not in the superficial sense of a spiritual connection between our faith and Abraham’s history, but because the faith of Abraham was interwoven with the fact of Isaac’s birth, whom he obtained by faith, and of whom there was given him a seed as the stars of the heaven and as the sand of the seashore.


From the individual the Holy Spirit’s work passes into the family, and thence into the nation. Thus Israel receives his being.

It was Israel, i.e., not one of the nations, but a people newly created, added to the nations, received among their number, perpetually distinct from all other nations in origin and significance. And this people is also born of faith. To this end God casts it into death: on Moriah; in Jacob’s flight; in the distresses of Joseph, and in the fears of Moses; alongside the fiery furnaces of Pithon and Ramses; when the infants of the Hebrews floated on the Nile. And from this death it is again and again faith that saves and delivers, and therefore the Holy Spirit who continues His glorious work in the generation and regeneration of this coming people. After this people is born it is again thrown into death: first, in the wilderness; then, during the time of the judges; finally, in the Exile. Yet it can not die, for it carries in its bosom the hope of the promise. However maimed, plagued, and decimated, it multiplies again and again; for the Lord’s promise fails not, and in spite of shameful backslidings and apostasy, Israel manifests the glory of a people born, living, and dying by faith.

Thus the work of the Holy Spirit passes through these three stages: Abel, Abraham, Moses; the individual, the family, the nation. In each of these three the work of the Holy Spirit is visible, inasmuch as everything is wrought by faith. Is faith not wrought by the Holy Spirit? Very well; by faith Abel obtained witness; by faith Abraham received the son of the promise; and by faith Israel passed through the Red Sea.


And what is the relation between life and the word of life during these three stages? Is it, as according to current representations, <pb n=“68”/> first life, and then the word springing therefrom as token of the conscious life?

Evidently history proves the very opposite. In Paradise the word precedes and the life follows. To Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees, first the word; “Get thee out from thy country, and I will bless thee, and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” In the case of Moses it is first the word in the burning bush and then the passage through the Red Sea. This is the Lord’s appointed way. He first speaks, then works. Or more correctly, He speaks, and by speaking He quickens. These two stand in closest connection. Not as tho the word causes life; for the Eternal and Triune God is the only Cause, Source, and Fountain of life. But the word is the instrument with which He wills to complete His work in our hearts.

We can not stop here to consider the work of the Father and the Son, which either preceded or followed that of the Holy Spirit, and which is interwoven with it. Of the miracles we speak only because we discover in them a special twofold work of the Holy Spirit. The working of the miracle is of the Father and of the Son, and not so much of the Holy Spirit. But often as it pleased God to use men as, instruments in the performance of miracles, it is the Spirit’s special work to qualify them by working faith in their hearts. Moses smiting the rock believed not, but he imagined that by smiting he himself could produce water from the rock; which God alone can do. To him that believes it is the same whether he speaks or smites the rock. Stick nor tongue can in the least affect it. The power proceeds from God alone. Hence the greatness of the sin of Moses. He thought that he was to be the worker, and not God. And this is the very work of sin in God’s people.

Hence we see that when Moses cast down his rod, when he cursed the Nile, when Elias and other men of God wrought miracles, they did nothing, they only believed. And by virtue of their faith they became to the bystanders the interpreters of God’s testimony, showing them the works of God and not their own. This is what St. Peter exclaimed: “Why look ye so earnestly on us as tho by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?”

To work this faith in the hearts of men who were to perform these miracles was the Holy Spirit’s first task. His second was to quicken faith in the hearts of those upon whom the miracle was to be wrought. Of Christ it is written, that in Capernaum He could <pb n=“69”/> not do many powerful works because of their unbelief; and we read repeatedly: “Thy faith hath made thee whole.”

But the miracle alone has no convincing power. The unbeliever begins with denying it. He explains it from natural causes. He neither will nor can see God’s hand in it. And when it is so convincing that he can not deny it, he says: “It is of the devil.” But he will not acknowledge that it is the power of God. Therefore to make the miracle effectual, the Holy Spirit must also open the eyes of them that witness it to see the power of God therein. All our reading of the miracles in our Bible is unprofitable unless the Holy Spirit opens our eyes, and then we see them live, hear their testimony, experience their power, and glorify God for His mighty works.


<div3 title=“XV. The Revelation of the Old Testament in Writing”>

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The Revelation of the Old Testament in Writing.


“Then I said, I will not speak any more in His Name. But His word was in my heart as a burning fire, shut up in my bones: and I was weary with forbearing, but I could not.”—Jer. xx. 9.


Altho the miracles performed for and in the midst of Israel created a glorious life-center in the midst of the heathen world, yet they did not constitute a Holy Scripture; for this can not be created except God speak to man, even to His people Israel. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.”

This divine speaking is not limited to prophecy. God spoke also to others than prophets, e.g., to Eve, Cain, Hagar, etc. To receive a revelation or a vision does not make one a prophet, unless it be accompanied by the command to communicate the revelation to others. The word “nabi,” the Scriptural term for prophet; does not indicate a person who receives something of God, but one who brings something to the people. Hence it is a mistake to confine the divine revelation to the prophetic office. In fact, it extends to the whole race in general; prophecy is only one of its special features. As to the divine revelation in its widest scope, it is evident from the Scripture that God spoke to men from Adam to the last of the apostles. From Paradise to Patmos revelation runs like a golden thread through every part of Sacred History.

As a rule, the Scripture does not treat this divine speaking metaphorically. There are exceptions, e.g., “God spake to the fish” (Jonah ii. 10); “The heavens declare the glory of God, and day unto day uttereth speech” (Psalm xix. 2, 3). However, it can be proven, from a thousand passages against one to the contrary, that the ordinary speaking of the Lord may not be taken in other than the literal sense. This is evident from the call of God to Samuel, <pb n=“71”/> which the child mistook for that of Eli. It is evident also from the names, numbers, and localities that are mentioned in this divine speaking; especially from the dialogues between God and man, as in the history of Abraham in the conflict of his faith concerning the promised seed, and in his intercession for Sodom.

And therefore we can not agree with those who would persuade us that the Lord did not really speak; that if it reads so, it must not be so understood; and that a clearer insight shows that “a certain influence from God affected the inner life of the person addressed. In connection with the person’s peculiar character and the influences of his past and present this working gave special clearness to his consciousness, and wrought in him such a conviction that, without hesitation, he declared: ‘Since I will as God wills, I know that the Lord has thus spoken to me.’” This representation we reject as exceedingly pernicious and hurtful to the life of the Church. We call it false, since it dishonors the truth of God; and we refuse to tolerate a theology that starts from such premises. It annihilates the authority of the Scripture. Altho commended by the Ethical wing it is exceedingly un-ethical, inasmuch as it directly opposes the clearly expressed truth of the Word of God. Nay, this divine speaking, whose record the Scripture offers, must be understood as real speaking.

And what is speaking? Speaking presupposes a person who has a thought that he wishes to transfer directly to the consciousness of another, without the intervention of a third person or of writing or of gesture. Hence when God speaks to man three things are implied:

First, that God has a thought which He wills to communicate to man.

Second, that He executes His design in a direct way.

Third, that the person addressed now possesses the divine thought with this result, that he is conscious of the same idea which a moment ago existed only in God.

With every explanation doing full justice to these three points we will agree; every other we reject.

As to the question whether speech is possible without sound, we answer: “No, not among men.” Surely the Lord can speak and has spoken at times by means of air-vibrations; but He can speak to man without the use of either sound or ear. As men we have access to each other’s consciousness only by means of the organs of <pb n=“72”/> sense. We can not communicate with our neighbor except he hear or see or feel our touch. The unfortunate who is devoid of these senses can not receive the slightest information from without. But the Lord our God is not thus limited. He has access to man’s heart and consciousness from within. He can impart to our consciousness whatever He will in a direct way, without the use of eardrum, auditory nerve, and vibration of air. Tho a man be stone-deaf, God can make him hear, inwardly speaking to his soul.

However, to accomplish this God must condescend to our limitations. For the consciousness is subject to the mental conditions of the world in which it lives. A negro, e.g., can have no other consciousness than that developed by his environment and acquired by his language. Speaking to a foreigner unacquainted with out tongue, we must adapt ourselves to his limitations and address him in his own language. Hence in order to make Himself intelligible to man, God must clothe His thoughts in human language and thus convey them to the human consciousness.

To the person thus addressed it must seem therefore as tho he had been spoken to in the ordinary way. He received the impression that he heard words of human language conveying to him divine thoughts. Hence the divine speaking is always adapted to the capacities of the person addressed. Because in condescension the Lord adapts Himself to every man’s consciousness, His speaking assumes the form peculiar to every man’s condition. What a difference, for instance, between God’s word to Cain and that to Ezekiel! This explains how God could mention names, dates, and various other details; how He could make use of the dialect of a certain period; of derivation of words, as in the changing of names, as in the case of Abraham and Sarah.

This also shows that God’s speaking is not limited to godly and susceptible persons prepared to receive a revelation. Adam was wholly unprepared, hiding himself from the presence of God. And so were Cain and Balaam. Even Jeremiah said: “I will not speak any more in His Name. But His word was in my heart as a burning fire, shut up in my bones: and I was weary with forbearing, but I could not” (chap. xx. 9). Hence the divine omnipotence is unlimited. The Lord can impart the knowledge of His will to whomsoever He pleases. The question why He has not spoken for eighteen centuries must not be answered, “Because He has lost the power”; but, “Because it seemeth not good to Him.” Having once <pb n=“73”/> spoken and in the Scripture brought His word to our souls, He is silent now that we may honor the Scripture.

However, it should be noticed that in this divine speaking from Paradise to Patmos there is a certain order, unity, and regularity; wherefore we add:

First, the divine speaking was not confined to individuals, but, having a message for all the people, God spoke through His chosen prophets. That God can speak to a whole nation at once is proven by the events of Sinai. But it pleased Him not always to do this. On the contrary, He never spoke to them in that way afterward, but introduced prophetism instead. Hence the peculiar mission of prophetism is to receive the words of God and immediately to communicate them to the people. God speaks to Abraham what is for Abraham alone; but to Joel, Amos, etc., a message not for themselves, but for others to whom it must be conveyed. In connection with this we notice the fact that the prophet stands not alone, but in relation with a class of men among whom his mind was gradually prepared to speak to the people, and to receive the divine Oracle. For the peculiar feature of prophecy was the condition of ecstasy, which differed greatly from the way by which God spoke to Moses.

Secondly, these divine revelations are mutually related and, taken together, constitute a whole. There is first the foundation, then the superstructure, until finally the illustrious palace of the divine truth and knowledge is completed. Revelation as a whole shows therefore a glorious plan, into which are dovetailed the special revelations to individuals.

Thirdly, the speaking of the Lord, especially of the inward word, is peculiarly the work of the Holy Spirit, which, as we have found before, appears most strikingly when God comes into closest contact with the creature. And the consciousness is the most intimate part of man’s being. Wherefore, as often as the Lord our God enters human consciousness to communicate His thoughts, clothed in human thoughts and speech, the Scripture and the believer honor and adore therein the comforting operation of the Holy Spirit.


<div3 title=“XVI. Inspiration”>

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“And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write, These things saith He that hath the seven Spirits of God.”—Rev. iii. 1.


We do not speak here of the New Testament. Nothing has contributed more to falsify and undermine faith in the Scripture and the orthodox view concerning it than the unhistoric and unnatural practise of considering the Scripture of the Old and the New Testament at the same time.

The Old Testament appears first; then came the Word in the flesh; and only after that the Scripture of the New Testament. In the study of the work of the Holy Spirit the same order ought to be observed. Before we speak of His work in the Incarnation, the inspiration of the New Testament may not even be mentioned. And until the Incarnation, there existed no other Scripture than the Old Testament.

The question is now: How is the work of the Holy Spirit to be traced in the construction of that Scripture?

We have considered the question how it was prepared. By wonderful works God created a new life in this world; and, in order to make men believe in these works, He spoke to man either directly or indirectly, i.e., by the prophets. But this did not create a Sacred Scripture. If nothing more had been done there would never have been such a Scripture; for events take place and belong to the past; the word once spokes passes away with the emotion in the consciousness.

Human writing is the wonderful gift which God bestowed on man to perpetuate what otherwise would have been forgotten and utterly lost. Tradition falsifies the report. Among holy men this would not be so. But we are sinful men. By sin a lie can be told. Sin is also the cause of our lack of earnestness, and the root of all forgetfulness, carelessness, and thoughtlessness. These are the two factors, lying and carelessness, that rob tradition of its value. <pb n=“75”/> For this reason God gave our race the gift of writing. Whether on wax, on metal, on the face of the rock, on parchment, on papyrus, or on paper, is of no importance; but that God enabled man to find the art of committing to posterity a thought, a promise, an event, independent from his person, attaching it to something material, so that it could endure and be read by others even after his death. This is of greatest importance.

For us, men, reading and writing are means of fellowship. It begins with speaking, which is essential to fellowship. But mere speaking confines it to narrow limits, while reading and writing give it wider scope, extending it to persons far away and to generations yet unborn. Through writing past generations actually live together. Even now we can meet with Moses and David, Isaiah and John, Plato and Cicero; we can hear them speak and receive their mental utterances. Writing is therefore no contemptible thing as some, who are overspiritual and sneer at the written Word, consider it. On the contrary, it is great and glorious—one of the mighty factors whereby God keeps men and generations in living communication and exercise of love. Its discovery was a wonderful grace, God’s gift to man, more than doubling his treasures.

The gift has often been abused; yet even in its rightful use there is ascending glory. How much more glorious appears the art of writing when Dante, Shakespeare, and Schiller write their poetry, than when the pedagogue compiles his spelling-books or the notary public scribbles the lease of a house!

Since writing may be used or abused, may serve low or high purposes, the question arises: “What is its highest end?” And without the least hesitation we answer: “The writing of the Holy Scripture.” As human speech and language are of the Holy Spirit, so is writing also taught us of Him. But while man uses the art to record human thoughts, the Holy Spirit employs it to give fixed and lasting form to the thoughts of God. Hence there is a human employment of it and a divine. The highest and wholly unique is that in the Holy Scripture.

Actually there is no other book which sustains communication among men and generations as does the Sacred Scripture. To honor His own work the Holy Spirit has caused the universal distribution of this book alone, thereby putting men of all stations and classes into communication with the oldest generations of the race.

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From this standpoint the Holy Scripture must be considered, being in fact “the Scripture par excellence.” Hence the divine and oft-repeated command: “Write.” God did not only speak and act, leaving it to man whether His deeds and the tenor of His words were to be forgotten or remembered; but He also commanded that they should be recorded in writing. And when just before the announcement and close of the divine revelation to John on Patmos, the Lord commanded him, “Write to the church” of Ephesus, Pergamos, etc., He repeated in a summary what was the design of all preceding revelations, viz., that they should be written and in the form of a Scripture, a gift of the Holy Spirit, and be deposited in the Church, which for that reason is called the “pillar and ground of the truth.” Not, according to a later interpretation, as tho the truth were concealed in the Church; but, according to the ancient rendering, that Holy Scripture was entrusted to the Church for preservation.

However, we do not mean to say that with reference to every verse and chapter the Holy Spirit commanded, “Write,” as tho the Scripture as we possess it had come into existence page after page. Assuredly the Scripture is divinely inspired: a statement distorted and perverted beyond recognition by our Ethical theologians, if they understand by it that “prophets and apostles were personally animated by the Holy Spirit.” This confounds illumination with revelation, and revelation with inspiration. “Illumination” is the clearing up of the spiritual consciousness which in His own time the Holy Spirit gives more or less to every child of God. “Revelation “Is a communication of the thoughts of God given in extraordinary manner, by a miracle, to prophets and apostles. But “inspiration,” wholly distinct from these, is that special and unique operation of the Holy Spirit whereby He directed the minds of the writers of the Scripture in the act of writing. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God”; and this has no reference to ordinary illumination, nor extraordinary revelation, but to an operation that stands entirely alone and which the Church has always confessed under the name of Inspiration. Hence inspiration is the name of that all-comprehensive operation of the Holy Spirit whereby He has bestowed on the Church a complete and infallible Scripture. We call this operation all-comprehensive, for it was organic, not mechanical.

The practise of writing dates back to remote antiquity; preceded, <pb n=“77”/> however, by the preservation of the verbal tradition by the Holy Spirit. This is evident from the narrative of the Creation. Noted physicists like Agassiz, Dana, Guyot, and others have openly declared that the narrative of the Creation recorded many centuries ago what so far no man could know of himself, and what at the present time is only partly revealed by the study of geology. Hence the narrative of the Creation is not myth, but history. The events took place as recorded in the opening chapters of Genesis. The Creator Himself must have communicated them to man. From Adam to the time when writing was invented the remembrance of this communication must have been preserved correctly. That there are two narratives of the Creation proves nothing to the contrary. Creation is considered from the natural and from the spiritual points of view; hence it is perfectly proper that the image of Creation should be completed in a twofold sketch.

If Adam did not receive the special charge, yet from the revelation itself he obtained the powerful impression that such information was not designed for himself alone, but for all men. Realizing its importance and the obligation it imposed, succeeding generations have perpetuated the remembrance of God’s wonderful words and deeds, first orally, afterward by writing. In this way there gradually arose a collection of documents which through Egyptian influence were put in book form by the great men of Israel. These documents being collected, sifted, compiled, and expanded by Moses, formed in his day the beginning of a Holy Scripture properly so called.

Whether Moses and those earlier writers were conscious of their inspiration is immaterial; the Holy Spirit directed them, brought to their knowledge what they were to know, sharpened their judgment in the choice of documents and records, so that they should decide aright, and gave them a superior maturity of mind that enabled them always to choose the right word.

Altho the Holy Spirit spoke directly to men, human speech and language being no human inventions, yet in writing He employed human agencies. But whether He dictates directly, as in the Revelation of St. John, or governs the writing indirectly, as with historians and evangelists, the result is the same: the product is such in form and content as the Holy Spirit designed, an infallible document for the Church of God.

Hence the confession of inspiration does not exclude ordinary <pb n=“78”/> numbering, collecting of documents, sifting, recording, etc. It recognizes all these matters which are plainly discernible in Scripture. Style, diction, repetitions, all retain their value. But it must be insisted that the Scripture as a whole, as finally presented to the Church, as to content, selection, and arrangement of documents, structure, and even words, owes its existence to the Holy Spirit, i.e., that the men employed in this work were consciously or unconsciously so controlled and directed by the Spirit, in all their thinking, selecting, sifting, choice of words, and writing, that their final product, delivered to posterity, possessed a perfect warrant of divine and absolute authority.

That the Scriptures themselves present a number of objections and in many aspects do not make the impression of absolute inspiration does not militate against the other fact that all this spiritual labor was controlled and directed by the Holy Spirit. For the Scripture had to be constructed so as to leave room for the exercise of faith. It was not intended to be approved by the critical judgment and accepted on this ground. This would eliminate faith. Faith takes hold directly with the fulness of our personality. To have faith in the Word, Scripture must not grasp us in our critical thought, but in the life of the soul. To believe in the Scripture is an act of life of which thou, O lifeless man! art not capable, except the Quickener, the Holy Ghost, enable thee. He that caused Holy Scripture to be written is the same that must teach thee to read it. Without Him this product of divine art can not affect thee. Hence we believe:

First, that the Holy Spirit chose this human construction of the Scripture purposely, that we as men might more readily live in it.

Secondly, that these stumbling-blocks were introduced that it might be impossible for us to lay hold of its content with mere intellectual grasp, without the exercise of faith.


<div2 title=“Fifth Chapter”>

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Fifth chapter.



<div3 title=“XVII. Like One of Us”>


Like One of Us.


“But a body Thou hast prepared Me.”—Heb. x. 5.


The completion of the Old Testament did not finish the work that the Holy Spirit undertook for the whole Church. The Scripture may be the instrument whereby to act upon the consciousness of the sinner and to open his eyes to the beauty of the divine life, but it can not impart that life to the Church. Hence it is followed by another work of the Holy Spirit, viz., the preparation of the body of Christ.

The well-known words of Psalm xl. 6, 7: “Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire; mine ears Thou hast pierced; burnt offering and sin-offering hast Thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me,”—are rendered by St. Paul: “Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldst not, but a body Thou hast prepared me; in burnt-offerings and sin-offerings Thou hast no pleasure: lo, I come, in the volume of the book it is written of me.” We do not discuss how the words, “Mine ears hash Thou pierced,” can mean also, “A body Thou hast prepared me.” For our present purpose it is immaterial whether one says with Junius: “The ear is a member of the body; by the piercing of the ear hearing becomes possible; and only by the hearing does the body become an instrument of obedience”; or with another: “As the body of the slave became an instrument of obedience by the piercing of the ear, so <pb n=“80”/> did the body of Christ become an instrument of obedience by the conception of the Holy Spirit”; or finally: “As the Israelite became a servant by having his ear pierced, so has the Eternal Son adopted the form of a servant by becoming partaker of our flesh and blood.” St. Paul’s infallible exposition of Psalm xl. 7 does not raise any serious objection to any of these renderings. It suffices our present purpose if it be only acknowledged that, according to Heb. x. 5, the Church must confess that there was a preparation of the body of Christ.

This being conceded and taken in connection with what the Gospel relates concerning the conception, it can not be denied that in the preparing of the body of the Lord there is a peculiar work of the Holy Spirit. For the angel said to Mary: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke i. 35). And again: “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. i. 20). Both passages, apart from their proper meanings, evidently seek to produce the impression that the conception and birth of Jesus are extraordinary; that they did not occur after the will of man, but result from an operation of the Holy Spirit.

Like all other outgoing works of God, the preparation of the body of Christ is a divine work common to the three Persons.

It is erroneous to say that the Holy Spirit is the Creator of the body of Jesus, or, as some have expressed it, “That the Holy Spirit was the Father of Christ, according to His human nature.” Such representations must be rejected, since they destroy the confession of the Holy Trinity. This confession can not be maintained when any of the outgoing works of God are represented as not common to the three Persons.

We wish to emphasize, therefore, that not the Holy Spirit alone, but the Triune God, prepared the body of the Mediator. The Father and even the Son cooperated in this divine act.

However, as we have seen in Creation and Providence, in this cooperation the work of each Person bears its own distinctive mark. From the Father, of whom are all things, proceeded the material of the body of Christ, the creation of the human soul, and of all His gifts and powers, together with the whole plan of the Incarnation. From the Son, who is the wisdom of the Father, disposing and <pb n=“81”/> arranging all things in Creation, proceeded the holy disposition and arrangement with reference to the Incarnation. And as the correlated acts of the Father and the Son in Creation and Providence receive animation and perfection through the Holy Spirit, so there is in the Incarnation a peculiar act of the Holy Spirit through which the acts of Father and Son in this mystery receive completion and manifestation. Therefore it is said in Heb. x. 7 of the Triune God: “A body Thou hast prepared Me”; while it is also declared that that which is conceived in Mary is of the Holy Ghost.

This, however, may not be explained in the ordinary sense. It might be said that there is nothing wonderful in this, for Job declares (chap. xxxiii. 4), “The Spirit of the Lord hath given me life,” and of Christ we read that He was born of Mary, being conceived by the Holy Ghost. These two cover the same ground. Both instances connect the birth of a child with an act of the Holy Spirit. While, as regards the birth of Christ, we do not deny this ordinary act of the Holy Spirit, which is essential to the quickening of all life, especially that of a human being, yet we do deny that the conception by the Holy Spirit was the ordinary act. The ancient confession, “I believe in Jesus Christ, His Only-Begotten Son our Lord, who was Conceived by the Holy Ghost,” refers to a divine miracle and a deep mystery, in which the work of the Holy Spirit must be glorified.

Accordingly a complete analysis of this work is impossible. If not, it would cease to be a miracle. Wherefore let us look into this matter only with deepest reverence, and not advance theories contrary to the Word of God. What God has been pleased to reveal we know; what His Word only hints we can know only in faint outlines; and what is advanced outside of the Word is only the effort of a meddlesome spirit or unhallowed curiosity.


In this work of the Holy Spirit two things must be distinguished:

First, the creation of the human nature of Jesus.

Secondly, His separation from sinners.

On the first point, the Scripture teaches that no man ever could claim paternal connection with Jesus. Joseph appears and acts as the stepfather of Christ; but of a fellowship of life and origin between him and Jesus the Scripture never speaks. Indeed, Joseph’s neighbors regarded Jesus as the Son of the carpenter, but the Scripture always treats this as an error. St. John, declaring that <pb n=“82”/> the children of God are born not of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God, undoubtedly borrowed this glorious description of our higher birth from the extraordinary act of God which scintillates in the conception and birth of Christ. The fact that Mary was called a virgin; that Joseph was troubled at the discovery of his bride’s condition; that he intended secretly to leave her, and that an angel appeared to him in a dream—in a word, the whole Gospel narrative, as well as the unbroken tradition of the Church, allows no other confession than that the conception and birth of Christ were of Mary the virgin, but not of Joseph her betrothed husband.

Excluding the man, the Scripture thrice puts the Holy Spirit in the foreground as the Author of the conception. St. Matthew says (chap. i. 18): “When Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child by the Holy Ghost. And again, in ver. 20: “For that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” Lastly, Luke says (chap. i. 35): “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” These clear statements do not receive full recognition unless it be plainly confessed that the conception of the germ of a human nature in the womb of the virgin was an act of the Holy Spirit.

It is not expedient nor lawful to enter more deeply into this matter. How human life originates after conception, whether the embryo immediately contains a human person or, whether he is created therein afterward, and other similar questions, must remain unanswered, perhaps forever. We may advance theories, but Omnipotent God allows no man to discover His workings in hidden laboratories of His creative power. Wherefore all that may be said according to Scripture is contained in the following four particulars:

First, in the conception of Christ not a new being was called into life as in all other cases, but One who had existed from eternity, and who then entered into vital relation with the human nature. The Scripture clearly reveals this. Christ existed from before the foundation of the world. His goings forth were of old, from the days of eternity. He took upon Himself the form of a servant. Even tho the biologist should discover the mystery of the human birth, it could not reveal anything regarding the conception of the Mediator.

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Second, it is not the conception of a human person, but of a human nature. Where a new being is conceived, a human person comes into existence. But when the Person of the Son, who was with the Father from eternity, partakes of our flesh and blood, He adopts our human nature in the unity of His Person, thus becoming a true man; but it is not the creation of a new person. The Scripture clearly shows this. In Christ appears but one ego, being in the same Person at once the Son of God and the Son of man.

Third, from this it follows not that a new flesh was created in Mary as the Mennonites used to teach, but that the fruit in Mary’s womb, from which Jesus was born, was taken from and nourished with her own blood—the very blood which through her parents she had received from fallen Adam.

Last, the Mediator born of Mary not only partook of our flesh and blood, such as it existed in Adam and as we have inherited it from Adam, but He was born a true man, thinking, willing, and feeling like other men, susceptible to all the human emotions and sensations that cause the countless thrills and throbs of human life.

And yet He was separate from sinners. Of this we speak in the next article.

Let this suffice for the fact of the conception, from which fact we derive the precious comfort: “That it covers in the sight of God my sin and guilt wherein I was conceived and brought forth” (Heidelberg Catechism, quest. 36).


<div3 title=“XVIII. Guiltless and Without Sin.”>

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Guiltless and Without Sin.


“For such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.”—Heb. vii. 26.


Throughout the ages the Church has confessed that Christ took upon Himself real human nature from the virgin Mary, not as it was before the fall, but such as it had become, by and after the fall.

This is clearly stated in Heb. ii. 14, 17: “Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself took part of the same . . . . Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” It was even such a partaking of our nature as would make Him feel Satan’s goad, for there follows: “In that He Himself hath suffered, being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted.” Upon the authority of the divine Word we can not doubt then that the Son of God became man in our fallen nature. It is our misery, by virtue of the inherited guilt of Adam, that we can not live and act but as partakers of the flesh and blood corrupted by the fall. And since we as children are partakers of flesh and blood, so is He also become partaker of the same. Hence it can not be too strongly emphasized that the Son of God, walking among men, bore the same nature in which we spend our lives; that His flesh had the same origin as our flesh; that the blood which ran through His veins is the same as our blood, and came to Him as well as to us from the same fountain in Adam. We must feel, and dare confess, that in Gethsemane our Savior agonized in our flesh and blood; that it was our flesh and blood that were nailed to the cross. The “blood of reconciliation “Is taken from the very blood which thirsts after reconciliation.

With equal assurance, however, bowing to the authority of the Scripture, we confess that this intimate union of the Son of God with the fallen human nature does not imply the least participation <pb n=“85”/> of our sin and guilt. In the same epistle in which the apostle sets forth distinctly the fellowship of Jesus with the human flesh and blood, he bears equally clear testimony to the fact of His sinlessness, so that every misunderstanding may be obviated. As by virtue of our conception and birth we are unholy, guilty, and defiled, one with sinners, and therefore burdened with the condemnation of hell, so is the Mediator conceived and born holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, made higher than the heavens. And with equal emphasis the apostle declares that sin did not enter into His temptations, for, altho tempted in all things, like as we are, yet He was ever without sin.

Therefore the mystery of the Incarnation lies in the apparent contradiction of Christ’s union with our fallen nature, which on the one hand is so intimate as to make Him susceptible to its temptations, while on the other hand He is completely cut off from all fellowship with its sin. The confession which weakens or eliminates either of these factors must, when logically developed, degenerate into serious heresy. By saying, “The Mediator is conceived and born in our nature, as it was before the fall,” we sever the fellowship between Him and us; and by allowing that He had the least personal part of our guilt and sin, we sever His fellowship with the divine nature.

Does the Scripture not teach then that the Mediator was made sin and bore the curse for us, and “as a worm and no man” suffered deepest distress?

We answer: Yea, verily, without this we could have no redemption. But in all this He acted as our Substitute. His own personality was not in the least affected by it. His burdening Himself with our sins was a High-Priestly act, performed vicariously. He was made sin, but never a sinner. Sinner means one who is personally affected by sin; Christ’s person never was. He never had any fellowship with sin other than that of love and compassion, to bear it as our High Priest and Substitute. Yet, tho He was exceedingly sorrowful even unto death, tho He was sorely tempted so that He cried out, “Let this cup pass from Me,” in the center of His personal being He remained absolutely free from the least contact with sin.

A close examination of the way by which we become partakers of sin will shed more light on this subject.

Every individual sin is not of our own begetting only, but a participation in the common sin, the one mighty sin of the whole <pb n=“86”/> race against which the anger of God is kindled. Not only do we partake of this sin by an act of the will as we grow up; it was ours already in the cradle, in our mother’s womb—yea, even in our conception. “Conceived and born in sin” is the awful confession which the Church of God’s redeemed can never deny.

For this reason the Church has always laid such stress upon the doctrine of inherited guilt, as declared by St. Paul in Rom. v. Our inherited guilt does not spring from inherited sin; on the contrary, we are conceived and born in sin because we stand in inherited guilt. Adam’s guilt is imputed to all that were in his loins. Adam lived and fell as our natural and federal head. Our moral life stands in root-relation to his moral life. We were in him. He carried us in himself. His state determined our state. Hence by the righteous judgment of God his guilt was imputed to all his posterity, for as much as, by the will of man, they should successively be born of his loins. By virtue of this inherited guilt we are conceived in sin and born in the participation of sin.

God is our Creator, and from His hands we came forth pure and undefiled. To teach otherwise is to make Him the Author of individual sin, and to destroy the sense of guilt in the soul. Hence sin, especially original sin, does not originate in our creation by the hand of God, but by our vital relation with the sinful race. Our person does not proceed from our parents. This is in direct conflict with the indivisibility of spirit, with the Word of God, and its confession that God is our Creator, “who has also made me.”

However, all creation is not the same. There is mediate immediate creation. God created light by immediate creation, but grass and herbs mediately, for they spring from the ground. The same difference exists between the creation of Adam and that of his posterity. The creation of Adam was immediate: not of his body, which was taken from the dust, but of his person, the human being called Adam. His posterity, however, is a mediate creation, for every conception is made to depend upon the will of man. Hence while we come from the hand of God pure and undefiled, we become at the same time partakers of the inherited and imputed guilt of Adam; and by virtue of this inherited guilt; through our conception and birth, God brings us into fellowship with the sin of the race. How this is brought about is an unfathomable mystery but this is a fact, that we become partakers of the sin of the race by generation, which begins with conception and ends with birth.

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And now, with reference to the Person of Christ; everything depends upon the question whether the original guilt of Adam was imputed also to the man Jesus Christ.

If so, then, like all other men, Christ was conceived and born in sin by virtue of this original guilt. Where imputed original guilt is, there must be sinful defilement. But, on the other hand, where it is not, sinful defilement can not be; hence He that is called holy and harmless must be undefiled. Adam’s guilt was not imputed to the man Jesus Christ. If it were, then He was also conceived and born in sin; then He did not suffer vicariously, but for Himself personally; then there can be no blood of reconciliation. If the original guilt of Adam was imputed to the man Jesus Christ, then by virtue of His sinful conception and birth He was also subject to death and condemnation, and He could not have received life but by regeneration. Then it also follows that either this Man is Himself in need of a Mediator, or that we, like Him, can enter into life without a Go-between.

But this whole representation is without foundation, and is to be rejected without qualification. The whole Scripture opposes it. Adam’s guilt is imputed to his posterity. But Christ is not a descendant of Adam. He existed before Adam. He was not born passively as we, but Himself took upon Him the human flesh. He does not stand under Adam as His head, but is Himself a new Head, having others under Him, of whom He saith: “Behold Me and the children whom Thou hast given Me” (Heb. ii. 13). True, Luke iii. 23, 28 contains the genealogy of Joseph, which closes with the words, “The son of Adam, the son of God”; but the Evangelist adds emphatically, “as was supposed”; hence Jesus was not the son of Joseph. And in Matthew His genealogy stops at Abraham. Altho on Pentecost St. Peter says that David knew that God would raise up Christ out of the fruit of his loins, yet he adds this limitation, “according to the flesh.” Moreover, realizing that the Son did not assume a human person, but the human nature, so that His Ego is that of the Person of the Son of God, it necessarily follows that Jesus can not be a descendant of Adam; hence the imputation of Adam’s guilt to Christ would annihilate the divine Person. Such imputation is utterly out of the question. To Him nothing is imputed. The sins He bore He took upon Himself voluntarily, vicariously, as, our High Priest and Mediator.


<div3 title=“XIX. The Holy Spirit in the Mystery of the Incarnation”>

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The Holy Spirit in the Mystery of the Incarnation.


“The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory.”—John i. 14.


There is one more question in the treatment of this subject: What was the extraordinary operation of the Holy Spirit, that enabled the Son of God to assume our fallen nature without being defiled by sin?

Altho we concede it to be unlawful to pry into that behind the veil which God does not freely open to us, yet we may seek the meaning of the words that embody the mystery; and this we intend to do in the discussion of this question.

The Incarnation of Christ, with reference to His sinlessness, is connected with the being of sin, the character of original sin, the relation between, body and soul, regeneration, and the working of the Holy Spirit in believers. Hence it is necessary for a clear understanding to have a correct view of the relation of Christ’s human nature to these important matters.

Sin is not a spiritual bacillus hiding in the blood of the mother and received into the veins of the child. Sin is not material and tangible; its nature is moral and spiritual, belonging to the invisible things whose results we can perceive but whose real being escapes detection. Wherefore in opposition to Manicheism and kindred heresies, the Church has always confessed that sin is not a material substance in our flesh and blood, but that it consists in the loss of the original righteousness in which Adam and Eve bloomed and prospered in Paradise. Nor do believers differ on this point, for all acknowledge that sin is the loss of original righteousness.

However, tracing the next step in the course of sin, we meet a serious difference between the Church of Rome and our own. The former teaches that Adam came forth perfect from the hand of his Maker, even before he was endowed with original righteousness. <pb n=“89”/> This implies that the human nature is finished without original righteousness, which is put on him like a robe or ornament. As our present nature is complete without dress or ornament, which are needed only to appear respectable in the world, so was the human nature, according to Rome, complete and perfect in itself without righteousness, which serves only as dress and jewel. But the Reformed churches have always opposed this view, maintaining that original righteousness is an essential part of the human nature; hence that the human nature in Adam was not complete without it; that it was not merely added to Adam’s nature, but that Adam was created in the possession of it as the direct manifestation of his life.

If Adam’s nature was perfect before he possessed original righteousness, it follows that it remains perfect after the loss of it; in which case we describe sin simply as “carentia justitix origirialis;” i.e., the want of original righteousness. This used to be expressed thus: Is original righteousness a natural or supernatural good? If natural, then its loss caused the human nature to be wholly corrupt; if supernatural, then its loss might take away the glory and honor of that nature, but as a human nature it retained nearly all of its original power.

Bellarminus said that desire, disease, conflict, etc., naturally belong to human nature; and original righteousness was a golden bridle laid upon this nature, to check and control this desire, disease, conflict, etc. Hence when the golden bride was lost, disease, desire, conflict, and death broke loose from restraint (tom. iv., chap. v., col. 15, 17, 18). Thomas Aquinas, to whom Calvin was greatly indebted, and whom the present Pope has earnestly commended to his priests, had a more correct view. This is evident from his definition of sin. If disease, desire, etc., existed in man when he came from the hand of God, and only supernatural grace can restrain them, then sin is merely the loss of original righteousness, hence purely negative. But if original righteousness belongs to human nature and was not simply added to it supernaturally, then sin is twofold: first, the loss of original righteousness; second, the ruin and corruption of human nature itself, disorganizing and disjointing it. Thomas Aquinas acknowledges this last aspect, for he teaches (“Summa Theologiæ,” prima secundæ, ix., sect. 2, art. 1) that sin is not only deprivation and loss, but also a state of corruption, wherein must be distinguished the lack of what ought <pb n=“90”/> to be present, i.e., original righteousness; and the presence of what ought to be absent, viz., an abnormal derangement of the parts and powers of the soul.

Our fathers held almost the same view. They judged that sin is not material, but the loss of original righteousness. But since original righteousness belongs to the sound human nature, the loss did not leave that nature intact, but damaged, disjointed, and corrupted it:

To illustrate: A beautiful geranium that adorned the window was killed by the frost. Leaves and flowers withered, leaving only a mass of mildew and decay. What was the cause? Merely the loss of the sun’s light and heat. But that was enough; for these belong to the nature of the plant, and are essential to its life and beauty. Deprived of them it remains not what it is, but its nature loses its soundness, and this causes decay, mildew, and poisonous gases, which soon destroy it. So of human nature: In Paradise Adam was like the blooming plant, flourishing in the warmth and brightness of the Lord’s presence. By sin he fled from that presence. The result was not merely the loss of light and heat, but since these were essential to his nature, that nature languished, drooped, and withered. The mildew of corruption formed upon it; and the positive process of dissolution was begun, to end only in eternal death.

Facts and history prove even now that the human body has weakened since the days of the Reformation; that bad habits of a certain character sometimes pass from father to child even where the early death of the former precludes propagation by education and example. Hence the difference between Adam, body and soul, before the fall and his descendants after the fall is not merely the loss of the Sun of Righteousness, which by nature shines no longer upon them, but the damage caused by this loss to the human nature, in body and soul, which thereby are weakened, diseased, corrupted, and thrown out of balance.

This corrupt nature passes from the father to the child, as the Confession of Faith expresses it in article xv.: “That original sin is a corruption of the whole nature, and an hereditary disease; wherewith infants themselves are infected in their mother’s womb, and which produces in man all sorts of sin, being in him as a root thereof.”

However, the relation between a person and his ego must be <pb n=“91”/> taken into account. The disordered condition of our flesh and blood inclines and incites to sin, a fact that has been observed in the victims of certain terrible diseases as their effect. But this could not result in sin if there were no personal ego to allow itself to be excited. Again, tho the unbalanced powers of the soul which cause the darkening of the understanding, the blunting of the sensibilities, and the weakening of the will arouse the passions, yet even this could not result in sin if no personal ego were affected by this working. Hence sin puts its own mark upon this corruption only when the personal ego turns away from God, and in that disordered soul and diseased body stands condemned before Him.

If according to established law the unclean brings forth the unclean, and if God has made our birth to depend upon generation by sinful men, it must follow that by nature we are born—first, without original righteousness; secondly, with all impaired body; thirdly, with a soul out of harmony with itself; lastly, with a personal ego which is turned away from God.

All of which would apply to the Person of the Mediator if, like one of us, He had been born a human person by the will of man and not of God. But since He was not born a human person, but took our human nature upon Himself, and was conceived not by the will of man, but by an operation of the Holy Spirit, there could not be in Him an ego turned away from God, nor could the weakness of His human nature for a moment be a sinful weakness. Or to put it in the concrete: Altho there was in that fallen nature something to incite Him to desire, yet it never became desire. There is a difference between the temptations and conflicts of Jesus and those of ourselves; while our ego and nature desire against God, His holy Ego opposed the incitement of His adopted nature and was never overcome.

Hence the proper work of the Holy Spirit consisted in this:

First, the creation not of a new person, but of a human nature, which the Son assumed into union with His divine nature in one Person.

Second, that the divine-human Ego of the Mediator, who, according to His human nature, also possessed spiritual life, was kept from the inward defilement which by virtue of our birth affected our ego and personality.

Hence regeneration, which affects not our nature but our person, is out of the question with reference to Christ. But what Christ <pb n=“92”/> needed was the gifts of the Holy Ghost to enable His weakened nature, in increasing measure, to be His instrument in the working out of His holy design; and finally to transform His weakened nature not by regeneration, but by resurrection into a glorious nature, divested of the last trace of weakness and prepared to unfold its highest glory.


<div2 title=“Sixth Chapter”>

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Sixth chapter.



<div3 title=“XX. The Holy Spirit in the Mediator”>



The Holy Spirit in the Mediator.


“Who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God.”—Heb. ix. 14.


The work of the Holy Spirit in the Person of Christ is not exhausted in the Incarnation, but appears conspicuously in the work of the Mediator. We consider this work in the development of His human nature; in the consecration to His office; in His humiliation unto death; in His resurrection, exaltation, and return in glory.

First—The work of the Holy Spirit in the development of the human nature in Jesus.

We have said before, and now repeat, that we consider the effort to write the “Life of Jesus” either unlawful or its title a misnomer: a misnomer when, pretending to write a biography of Jesus, the writer simply omits to explain the psychological facts of His life; unlawful when he explains these facts from the human nature of Jesus.

There never was a life of Jesus in the sense of a human, personal existence; and the tendency to substitute the various biographies of Jesus of Nazareth for the simple Gospel narratives aims really at nothing else than to place the unique Person of the God-man on the same level with the geniuses and great men of the world; to humanize Him, and thus to annihilate the Messiah in Him—in other words, to secularize Him. And against this we solemnly protest with all the power that is in us.

The God-human Person of the Lord Jesus did not live a life, but <pb n=“94”/> rendered one mighty act of obedience by humbling Himself unto death; and out of that humbling He ascended not by powers developed from His human nature, but by a mighty and extraordinary act of the power of God. Any one who successfully undertook to write the life of Christ could do no more than draw the picture of His human nature. For the divine nature has no history, does not run through a process of time, but remains the same forevermore.

However, this does not prevent us from inquiring, according to the need of our limitations, in what manner the human nature of Christ was developed. And then the Scripture teaches us that there was indeed growth in His human nature. St. Luke relates that Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men. Hence there was in His human nature a growth and development from the less unto the greater. This would have been impossible if in the Messiah the divine nature had taken the place of the human ego; for then the majesty of the Godhead would always and completely have filled the human nature. But this was not the case. The human nature in the Mediator was real, i.e., in body and soul it existed as it exists in us, and all inworking of divine life, light, and power could manifest itself only by adapting itself to the peculiarities and limitations of the human nature.

When maintaining the mistaken view that the development of sinless Adam would have been accomplished without the aid of the Holy Spirit, it is natural to suppose that the sinless nature of Christ did equally develop itself without the assistance of the Spirit of God. But knowing from the Scripture that not only man’s gifts, powers, and faculties, but also their working and exercise are a result of the work of the Holy Spirit, we see the development of the human nature of Jesus in a different light and understand the meaning of the words that He received the Holy Spirit without measure. For this indicates that His human nature also received the Holy Ghost; and not this only after He had lived for years without Him, but every moment of His existence according to the measure of His capacities. Even in His conception and birth the Holy Spirit effected not only a separation from sin, but He also endowed His human nature with the glorious gifts, powers, and faculties of which that nature is susceptible. Hence His human nature received these gifts, powers, and faculties not from the Son by communication from the divine nature, but from the Holy Ghost <pb n=“95”/> by communication to the human nature; and this should be thoroughly understood.

However, His human nature did not receive these gifts, powers, and faculties in full operation, but wholly inoperative: As there are in every infant powers and faculties that will remain dormant, some of them for many years, so there were in the human nature of Christ powers and faculties which for a time remained slumbering. The Holy Spirit imparted these endowments to His human nature without measure—John iii. 34. This has reference to a contrast between others, whom the Holy Spirit endowed not without measure, but in limited degree according to their individual calling or destiny; and Christ, in whom there is no such distinction or individuality—to whom, therefore, gifts, powers, and faculties are imparted in such a measure that He never could feel the lack of any gift of the Holy Spirit. He lacked nothing, possessed all; not by virtue of His divine nature, which can not receive anything, being the eternal fulness itself, but by virtue of His human nature, which was endowed with such glorious gifts by the Holy Spirit.

However, this was not all. Not only did the Holy Spirit adorn the human nature of Christ with these endowments, but He also caused them to be exercised, gradually to enter into full activity.

This depended upon the succession of the days and years of the time of His humiliation. Altho His heart contained the germ of all wisdom, yet as a child of one year, e.g., He could not know the Scripture by means of His human understanding. As the Eternal Son He knew it, for He Himself had given it to His Church. But His human knowledge had no free access to His divine knowledge. On the contrary, while the latter never increased, knowing all things from eternity, the former was to learn everything; it had nothing of itself. This is the increase in wisdom of which St. Luke speaks—an increase not of the faculty, but of its exercise. And this affords us a glimpse into the extent of His humiliation. He that knew all things by virtue of His divine nature began as man with knowing nothing; and that which He knew as a man He acquired by learning it under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

And the same applies to His increase in stature and in favor with God and men. Stature refers to His physical growth, including all that in the human nature depends upon it. Not created an adult like Adam, but born a child like each of us, Jesus had to grow and develop physically: not by magic, but in reality. When He <pb n=“96”/> lay in Mary’s lap, or as a boy looked around in his stepfather’s shop, He was a child not only in appearance with the wisdom of a venerable, hoary head, but a real child, whose impressions, feelings, sensations, and thoughts kept step with His years. No doubt His development was quick and beautiful, surpassing, anything ever seen in other children, so that the aged rabbis in the Temple were astonished when they looked upon the Boy only twelve years old; yet it always remained the development of a child that first lay upon His mother’s, lap, then learned to walk, gradually became a boy and youth, until He attained the fulness of man’s stature.


And as the Holy Spirit with every increase of His human nature enlarged the exercise of its powers and faculties, so He did also with reference to the relation of the human nature to God and men, for He increased in favor with God and men. Favor has reference to the unfolding and development of the inward life, and may manifest itself in a twofold way, either pleasing or displeasing to God and men. Of Jesus it is said that in His development such gifts and faculties, dispositions and attributes, powers and qualifications manifested themselves from the inward life of His human nature that God’s favor rested upon them, while they affected those around Him in a refreshing and helpful way.

Even apart from His Messiahship Jesus stood, with reference to His human nature, during all the days of His humiliation, under the constant and penetrating operation of the Holy Spirit. The Son, who lacked nothing, but as God in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit possessed all things, compassionately adopted our human nature. And inasmuch as it is the peculiarity of that nature to derive its gifts, powers, and faculties not from itself, but from the Holy Spirit, by whose constant operation alone they can be exercised, so did the Son not violate this peculiarity, but, altho He was the Son, He did not take its preparation, enriching, and operation into His own hand, but was willing to receive them from the hand of the Holy Spirit.

The fact that the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus at His Baptism, altho He had received Him without measure at His conception, can only be explained by keeping in view the difference between the personal and official life of Jesus.


<div3 title=“XXI. Not Like unto Us”>

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Not Like unto Us.


“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness.”—Matt. iv. 1.


The representation that Christ’s human nature received animating and qualifying influences and impulses directly from His divine nature, altho on the whole incorrect, contains also some truth.

We often distinguish between our ego and nature. We say: “I have my nature against me,” or “My nature is in my favor”; hence it follows that our person animates and actuates our nature. Applying this to the Person of the Mediator, we must distinguish between His human nature and His Person. The latter existed from eternity, the former He adopted in time. And since in the Son the divine Person and the divine nature are nearly one, it must be acknowledged that the Godhead of our Lord directly controlled His human nature. This is the meaning of the confession of God’s children that His Godhead supported His human nature.

But it is wrong to suppose that the divine Person accomplished in His human nature what in us is effected by the Holy Spirit. This would endanger His true and real humanity. The Scripture positively denies it.

Second—The work of the Holy Spirit in the consecration of Jesus to His office (see “First,” on p. 93).

This ought to be carefully noticed, especially since the Church has never sufficiently confessed the influence of the Holy Spirit exerted upon the work of Christ. The general impression is that the work of the Holy Spirit begins when the work of the Mediator on earth is finished, as tho until that time the Holy Spirit celebrated His divine day of rest. Yet the Scripture teaches us again and again that Christ performed His mediatorial work controlled and impelled by the Holy Spirit. We consider this influence now with reference to His consecration to His office.

By the spirit of the prophets already Christ testified of this saying <pb n=“98”/> by the mouth of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek.” But the great fact which could not be learned from prophecy is that of the descent of the Holy Spirit at Jordan. Surely Isaiah referred partly to this event, but principally to the anointing in the counsel of peace. However, when Jesus went up out of Jordan, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove, and a voice was heard from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son,” then only the anointing became actual.

In regard to the event itself, only a few words. That Christ’s Baptism was not a mere form, but the fulfilling of all righteousness proves that He descended into the water burdened with our sins. Hence St. John makes the words, “Behold the Lamb of God,” precede the account of His Baptism. Wherefore it is incorrect to say, that Christ was installed into His Messianic office only at His Baptism. On the contrary, He was anointed from eternity. Wherefore He may not be represented as being for a moment unconscious, according to the measure of His development, of the Messiah task that rested upon Him. This lay in His holy Person; it was not added to Him at a later period, but was His before Adam fell. And as in His human consciousness His Person gradually attained stature, it was always the stature of the Messiah. This is evident from His answer when, at the age of twelve, He spoke of the things of His Father which were to occupy Him; and still more clearly from His words to John the Baptist commandingly saying: “Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becameth us to fulfil all righteousness.”

And yet it is only at His Baptism that Jesus receives the actual consecration to His office. This is proven from the fact that, immediately after this He entered publicly upon His office as a Teacher; and also from the event itself, and the voice from heaven pointing to Him as the Messiah; and especially from the descent of the Holy Spirit, which can not be interpreted in any other way than as His consecration to His holy office.

What we have said with reference to the communication of the Holy Spirit qualifying one for office, as in the case of Saul, David, and others, is of direct application here. Altho in His human nature Jesus was personally in constant fellowship with the Holy Spirit, yet the official communication was established only at the time of His Baptism. Yet with this difference, that while in others the person and his office are separated at death, in the Messiah the <pb n=“99”/> two remain united even in and after death, to continue so until the moment that He shall deliver the Kingdom unto God the Father, that God may be all in all. Hence the descriptive remark of John: “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven, and it abode on Him” (John i. 32).

And finally, to the question why the Person of the Mediator needed this remarkable event and the three signs that accompany it, we answer:

First, Christ must be a true man even in His office, wherefore He must be installed according to the human custom. He enters upon His public ministry at thirty; He is publicly installed; and He is anointed with the Holy Spirit.

Second, for His human consciousness this striking revelation from heaven was of the utmost necessity. The conflict of the temptation was to be absolute, i.e., indescribable; hence the impression of His consecration must be indestructible.

Third, for the apostles and the Church it was necessary to distinguish unmistakably the true Messiah from all the pseudo-messiahs and antichrists. This is the reason of St. John’s strong appeal to this event.

If the work of the Holy Spirit with reference to the consecration is conspicuous and clearly indicated, the fact that the official influence of the Holy Spirit accompanied the Mediator throughout the entire administration of His office is not less clearly set forth in the Holy Scripture. This appears from the events immediately following the Baptism. St. Luke relates that Jesus being full of the Holy Spirit, was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. St. Matthew adds: “To be tempted of the devil.” Of Elias, Ezekiel, and others it is said that the Spirit took them up and transferred them to some other place. This stands in evident connection with what we read here concerning Jesus. With this difference, however, that while the propelling power came to them from without, Jesus, being full of the Holy Spirit, felt its pressure in the very depths of His soul. And yet, altho operating in His soul, this action of the Holy Spirit was not identical with the impulses of Christ’s human nature. Of Himself Jesus would not have gone into the desert; His going there was the result of the Holy Spirit’s leading. Only in this way this passage receives its full explanation.

That this leading of the Holy Spirit was not limited to this one act appears from St. Luke, who relates (chap. iv. 14.) that after the <pb n=“100”/> temptation He returned in the power of the Holy Spirit into Galilee, thus entering upon the public ministry of His prophetic office.

It is evidently the purpose of the Scripture to emphasize the fact of the inability of the human nature which Christ had adopted to accomplish the work of the Messiah without the constant operation and powerful leading of the Holy Spirit, whereby it was so strengthened that it could be the instrument of the Son of God for the performance of His wonderful work.

Jesus was conscious of this, and at the beginning of His ministry expressly indicated it. In their synagogue He turned to Isa. lxi. 1, and read to them: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me”; then added: “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.”

The Holy Spirit did not support His human nature in the temptation and in the opening ministry only, but in all His mighty deeds, as Christ Himself testified: “If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God is come unto you” (Matt. xii. 28). Moreover, St. Paul teaches that the gifts of healing and miracles proceed from the Holy Spirit, and this, in connection with the statement that these powers worked in Jesus (Mark vi. 14), convinces us that these were the very powers of the Holy Spirit. Again, it is frequently said He rejoiced in the Spirit or was troubled in the Spirit, which may be interpreted as a rejoicing or being troubled in His own spirit; but this is not a complete explanation. When it refers to His own spirit it reads: “And He sighed deeply in His spirit” (Mark viii. iz). But in the other cases we interpret the expressions as pointing to those deeper and more glorious emotions of which our human nature is susceptible only when abiding in the Holy Spirit. For altho St. John states that Jesus groaned in Himself (chap. xi. 38), this is not contradictory, especially with reference to Jesus. If the Holy Spirit always abode in Him, the same emotion may be attributed both to Him and to the Holy Spirit.

Apart, however, from these passages and their interpretations, we have said enough to prove that that part of Christ’s work of mediation, beginning with His Baptism and closing in the upper chamber, was marked by the operation, influence, and support of the Holy Spirit.

According to the divine counsel, human nature is adapted in creation to the inworking of the Holy Spirit, without which it can not unfold itself any more than the rosebud without the light and <pb n=“101”/> influence of the sun. As the ear can not hear without sound, and the eye can not see without light, so is our human nature incomplete without the light and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Wherefore, when the Son assumed human nature He took it just as it is, i.e., incapable of any holy action without the power of the Holy Spirit. Hence He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, that from the beginning His human nature should be richly endowed with powers. The Holy Spirit developed these powers; and He was consecrated to His office by the communication to His human nature of the Messianic gifts by which He still intercedes for us as our High Priest, and rules us as our King. And for this reason He was guided, impelled, animated, and supported by the Holy Spirit at every step of His Messianic ministry.

There are three differences between this communication of the Holy Spirit to the human nature of Jesus and that in us:

First, the Holy Spirit always meets with the resistance of evil in our hearts. Jesus’s heart was without sin and unrighteousness. Hence in His human nature the Holy Spirit met no resistance.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit’s operation, influence, support, and guidance in our human nature is always individual, i.e., in part, imperfect; in the human nature of Jesus it was central, perfect, leaving no void.

Thirdly, in our nature the Holy Spirit meets with an ego which in union with that nature opposes God; while the Person which He met in the human nature of Christ, partaking of the divine nature, was absolutely holy. For the Son having adopted the human nature in union with His Person, was cooperating with the Holy Spirit.


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The Holy Spirit in the Passion of Christ.


“Who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself.”—Heb. ix. 14.


Thirdly—Let us now trace the work of the Holy Spirit in the suffering, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Christ (see “First” and “Second,” pp. 93 and 97).

In the Epistle to the Hebrews the apostle asks: “If the blood of goats and calves and the ashes of the heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ purge your conscience from dead works?” adding the words: “Who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God.” The meaning of these words has been much disputed. Beza and Gomarus understood the Eternal Spirit to signify Christ’s divine nature. Calvin and the majority of reformers made it to refer to the Holy Spirit. Expositors of the present day; especially those of rationalistic tendencies, understand by it merely the tension of Christ’s human nature.

With the majority of orthodox expositors we adopt the view of Calvin. The difference between Beza and Calvin is that already referred to. The question is, whether as regards His human nature Christ substituted the inworking of the Son for that of the Holy Spirit; or did He have the ordinary operation of the Holy Spirit?

At the present time many have adopted the former view without clearly understanding the difference. They reason thus: “Are the two natures not united in the Person of Jesus? Why, then, should the Holy Spirit be added to qualify the human nature? Could the Son Himself not do this?” And so they reach the conclusion that since the Mediator is God, there could be no need of a work of the Holy Spirit in the human nature of Christ. And yet this view must be rejected, for—

First, God has so created human nature that without the Holy Spirit it can not have any virtue or holiness. Adam’s original, <pb n=“103”/> righteousness was the work and fruit of the Holy Spirit as truly as the new life in the regenerate is to-day. The shining-in of the Holy Spirit is as essential to holiness as the shining of light into the eye is essential to seeing.

Second, the work of the Son according to the distinction of three divine Persons is other than the work of the Holy Spirit with reference to the human nature. The Holy Spirit could not become flesh; this the Son alone could do. The Father has not delivered all things to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works from the Son but the Son depends upon the Holy Spirit for the application of redemption to individuals. The Son adopts our nature, thus relating Himself with the whole race; but the Holy Spirit alone can so enter into individual souls as to glorify the Son in the children of God.

Applying these two principles to the Person of Christ, w e see that His human nature could not dispense with the constant inshining of the Holy Spirit. For which reason Scripture declares: “He gave Him the Spirit without measure.” Nor could the Son according to His own nature take the place of the Holy Spirit; but in the divine economy, by virtue of His union with the human nature ever depended upon the Holy Spirit.

As to the question, whether the Godhead of Christ did not support His humanity, we answer: Undoubtedly; but never independently of the Holy Spirit. We faint because we resist, grieve, and repel the Holy Spirit. Christ was always victorious because His divinity never relaxed His hold upon the Holy Spirit in His humanity, but embraced Him and clave unto Him with all the love and energy of the Son of God.

Human nature is limited. It is susceptible of receiving the Holy Spirit so as to be His temple. But that susceptibility has its limits. Opposed by eternal death, it loses its tension and falls away from the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Hence we have no unlosable, good in ourselves, but only as members of the body of Christ. Apart from Him, eternal death would have power over us, would separate us from the Holy Spirit and destroy us. Wherefore all our salvation lies in Christ. He is our anchor cast within the veil. As to the human nature of Christ, it encountered and passed through eternal death. This could not be otherwise. If He had passed only through temporal death, eternal death would still be unvanquished.

To the question how His human nature could pass through <pb n=“104”/> eternal death and not perish, having no Mediator to support it, we answer: The human nature of Christ would have been overwhelmed by it, the in-shining of the Holy Spirit would have ceased if His divine nature, i.e., the infinite might of His Godhead, had not been underneath it. Hence the apostle declares: “Who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself”; not through the Holy Spirit. The two expressions are not identical. There is a difference between the Holy Spirit, the third Person in the Godhead, apart from me, and the Holy Spirit working within me.

The word of Scripture, “He was full of the Holy Ghost,” refers not only to the Person of the Holy Spirit, but also to His work in man’s soul. So with reference to Christ, there is a difference between: “He was conceived by the Holy Ghost,” “The Holy Ghost descended upon Him,” “Being full of the Holy Spirit,” “Who offered Himself by the Eternal Spirit.” The last two passages indicate the fact that the spirit of Jesus had taken in the Holy Spirit and identified itself with Him, in almost the same sense as Acts xv. 28: “It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.” The term “Eternal Spirit” was chosen to indicate that the divine-human Person of Christ entered into such indissoluble fellowship with the Holy Spirit as even eternal death could not break.

A closer examination of the sufferings of Christ will make this clear.

Christ did not redeem us by His sufferings alone, being spit upon, scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified, and slain; but this passion was made effectual to our redemption by His love and voluntary obedience. These are generally called His passive and active satisfaction. By the first we understand His actual bearing of pain, anguish, and death; by the second, His zeal for the honor of God, the love, faithfulness, and divine pity by which He became obedient even unto death—yea, the death of the cross. And these two are essentially distinct. Satan, e.g., bears punishment also and shall bear it forever; but he lacks the willingness. This, however, does, not affect the validity of the punishment. A murderer on the gallows may curse God and men to the end; but this does not invalidate his punishment. Whether he curses or prays, it is equally valid.

Hence there was in Christ’s sufferings much more than mere passive, penal satisfaction. Nobody compelled Jesus. He, partaker, of the divine nature, could not be compelled, but offered <pb n=“105”/> Himself quite voluntarily: “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God; in the volume of the book it is written of Me.” To render that voluntary sacrifice He had with equal willingness adopted the prepared body: “Who being in the form of God thought it no robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”; “Who, tho He were a Son, yet learned He obedience.” And to give highest proof of this obedience unto death, He inwardly consecrated Himself to death, as He Himself testified: “I sanctify Myself for them.”

This leads to the important question, whether Jesus rendered this obedience and consecration outside of His human nature, or in it, so that it manifested itself in His human nature. Undoubtedly the latter. The divine nature can not learn, or be tempted; the Son could not love the Father with other than eternal love. In the divine nature there is no more or less. To suppose this is to annihilate the divine nature. The statement that, “tho He were the Son, yet learned He obedience,” does not mean that as God He learned obedience; for God can not obey. God rules, governs, commands, but never obeys. As King He can serve us only in the form of a slave, hiding His princely majesty, having emptied Himself, standing before us as one despised among men. “Tho He were the Son” means, therefore: altho in His inward Being He is God the Son, yet He stood before us in such lowliness that nothing betrayed His divinity; yea, so lowly that He even learned obedience.

Wherefore if the Mediator as man showed in His human nature such zeal for God and such pity for sinners that He willingly gave Himself in self-sacrifice unto death, then it is evident that His human nature could not exercise such consecration without the inworking of the Holy Spirit; and again that the Holy Spirit could not have effected such inworking unless the Son willed and desired it. The cry of the Messiah is heard in the words of the psalmist: “I delight to do Thy will, O God.” The Son was willing so to empty Himself that it would be possible for His human nature to pass through eternal death; and to this end He let it be filled with all the mightiness of the Spirit of God. Thus the Son offered Himself “through the Eternal Spirit that we might serve the living God.”

Hence the work of the Holy Spirit in the work of redemption did not begin only at Pentecost, but the same Holy Spirit who in <pb n=“106”/> creation animates all life, upholds and qualifies our human nature, and in Israel and the prophets wrought the work of revelation, also prepared the body of Christ, adorned His human nature with gracious gifts, put these gifts into operation, installed Him into His office, led Him into temptation, qualified Him to cast out devils, and finally enabled Him to finish that eternal work of satisfaction whereby our souls are redeemed.

This explains why Beza and Gomarus could not be fully satisfied with Calvin’s exposition. Calvin said that it was the working of the Holy Spirit apart from the divinity of the Son. And they felt that there was something lacking. For the Son made Himself of no reputation and became obedient; but if all this is the work of the Holy Spirit, then nothing is left of the work of the Son. And to escape from this, they adopted the other extreme, and declared that the Eternal Spirit had reference only to the Son according to His divine nature—an exposition that can not be accepted, for the divine nature is never designated as spirit.

Yet they were not altogether wrong. The reconciliation of these contrary views must be looked for in, the difference between the existence of the Holy Spirit without us, and His working within us as received by our nature and identified with its own working. And inasmuch as the Son, by His Godhead, enabled His human nature, in the awful conflict with eternal death, to effect this union; therefore the apostle confesses that the sacrifice of the Mediator was rendered by the working of the Eternal Spirit.


<div3 title=“XXIII. The Holy Spirit in the Glorified Christ”>

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The Holy Spirit in the Glorified Christ.

“Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”—Rom. i. 4.


From the foregoing studies it appears that the Holy Spirit performed a work in the human nature of Christ as He descended the several steps of His humiliation to the death of the cross.

The question now arises, whether He had also a work in the several steps of Christ’s exaltation to the excellent glory, i.e., in His resurrection, ascension, royal dignity, and second coming.

Before we answer this question„ let us first consider the nature of this work in the exaltation. For it is evident that it must greatly differ from that in His humiliation. In the latter His human nature suffered violence. His sufferings antagonized not only His divine nature, but also His human nature. To suffer pain, insult, and mockery, to be scourged and crucified, goes against human nature. The effort to resist such sufferings and to escape from them is perfectly natural. Christ’s groaning in Gethsemane is the natural utterance of the human feeling. He was burdened with the curse and wrath of God against the sin of the race. Then human nature struggled against the burden, and the cry, “Father, let this cup pass from Me,” was the sincere and natural cry of horror which human nature could not repress.

And not in Gethsemane alone; trough His whole humiliation He experienced the same, tho in less degree. His self-emptying was not a single loss or bereavement, but a growing poorer and poorer, until at last nothing was left Him but a piece of ground where He could weep and a cross whereon He could die. He renounced all that heart and flesh hold dear, until, without friend or brother, without one tone of love, amid the mocking laughter of His slanderers, He gave up the ghost. Surely He trod the winepress alone.

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His humiliation being so deep and real, it is not surprising that the Holy Spirit succored and comforted His human nature so that it was not overwhelmed. For it is the proper work of the Holy Spirit by gifts of grace to enable human nature, tempted by sorrow to sin, to stand firm and overcome. He animated Adam before the fall; He comforts and supports all the children of God to-day; and He did the same in the human nature of Jesus. What air is to man’s physical nature, the Holy Spirit is to his spiritual nature. Without air there is death in our bodies; without the Holy Spirit there is death in our souls. And as Jesus had to die, tho He was the Son, when breath failed Him, so He could not live according to His human nature, tho He was the Son, except the Holy Spirit dwelt in that nature. Since, according to the spiritual side of His human nature, He was not dead as we are, but was born possessed of the life of God, so it was impossible for His human nature for a single moment to be without the Holy Spirit.

But how different in the state of His exaltation! Honor and glory are not against human nature, but satisfy it. It covets them and longs for them with all its energy of desire. Hence this exaltation created no conflict in the soul of Jesus. His human nature needed no support to bear it. Hence the question: What, then, could the Holy Spirit do for the human nature in the state of glory?

Regarding the resurrection, the Scripture teaches more than once that it was connected with a work of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul says (Roan. i. 4) that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God, by the Spirit of holiness with power; by the resurrection from the dead.” And St. Peter says ( r Peter iii. 18) that Christ “being put to death in the flesh, was quickened by the Spirit,” which evidently refers to the resurrection, as the context shows: “For Christ once suffered for our sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” His death points to the crucifixion, and His quickening, being the opposite of the latter, undoubtedly refers to His resurrection.

In Rom. viii. 2 r, speaking of our resurrection, St. Paul explains these more or less puzzling utterances, affirming that “if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.” This passage tells three things concerning our resurrection:

First, that the Triune God shall raise us up.

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Second, that this shall be wrought by a special work of the Holy Spirit.

Third, that it shall be effected by the Spirit that dwelleth in us.

St. Paul induces us to apply these three to Christ; for He compares our resurrection with His, not only as regards the fact, but also as regards the working whereby it was effected. Hence with reference to the latter it must be confessed:

First, that the Triune God raised Him from the dead, St. Peter stated this clearly on the day of Pentecost: “Whom God has raised up, having loosed the pains of death”; St. Paul repeated it in Ephes. i. zo, where he speaks of “His mighty power” which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead.

Second, that God the Holy Spirit performed a peculiar work in the resurrection.

Third, that He wrought this work in Christ from within, dwelling in Him: “Which dwelleth in you.”

The nature of this work is apparent from the Holy Spirit’s part in Adam’s creation and in our birth. If the Spirit kindles and brings forth all life, especially in man, then it was He who rekindled the spark quenched by sin and death. He did so in Jesus; He will do so in us.

The only remaining difficulty is on the third point: “Which dwelleth in you.” The work of the Holy Spirit in our creation, and therefore in that of Christ’s human nature, came from without; in the resurrection it works from within. Of course persons dying without being temples of the Holy Spirit are excluded. St. Paul speaks exclusively of men whose hearts are His temples. Hence, representing Him as dwelling in them, he speaks of Him as the Spirit of holiness, and Peter as the “Spirit,” indicating that they do not refer to a work of the Holy Spirit in opposition to the spirit of Jesus, but in which His spirit agreed and cooperated. And this harmonizes with Christ’s own words, that in the resurrection He would not be passive, but active: “I have power to lay down life and I have power to take it again. This commandment I have received of My Father.” The apostles declare again and again not only that Jesus was raised from the dead, but that He has risen. He had thus foretold it, and the angels said: “Behold, He is risen.”

Hence we reach this conclusion, that the work of the Holy Spirit in the resurrection was different from that in the humiliation; was Similar to that in the creation; and was performed from within by <pb n=“110”/> the Spirit who dwelt in Him without measure: who continued with Him through His death, and in whose work His own spirit fully concurred.

The work of the Holy Spirit in the exaltation of Christ, is not so easily defined. The Scripture never speaks of it in connection with His ascension, His sitting at the right hand of the Father, nor with the Lord’s second coming. Its connection with the descent at Pentecost will be treated in its proper place. Light upon these points can be obtained only from the scattered statements concerning the work of the Holy Spirit upon human nature in general. According to Scripture, the Holy Spirit belongs to our nature as the light to the eye; not only in its sinful condition, but also in the sinless state. From this we infer that Adam, before he fell was not without His inworking; hence that in the heavenly Jerusalem our human nature will possess Him in richer, fuller, more, glorious measure. For our sanctified nature is a habitation of God through the Spirit—Ephes. ii. za.

If, therefore, our blessedness in heaven consists in the enjoyment of the pleasures of God, and it is the Holy Spirit who comes into contact with our innermost being, it follows that in heaven He can not leave us. And upon this ground we confess, that not only the elect, but the glorified Christ also, who continues to be a true man in heaven, must therefore forever continue to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This our churches have always confessed in the Liturgy: “The same Spirit which dwelleth in Christ as the Head and in us as His members.”

The same Holy Spirit who performed His work in the conception of our Lord, who attended the unfolding of His human nature, who brought into activity every gift and power in Him, who consecrated Him to His office as the Messiah, who qualified Him for every conflict and temptation, who enabled Him to cast out devils, and who supported Him in His humiliation, passion, and bitter death, was the same Spirit who performed His work in His resurrection, so that Jesus was justified in the Spirit (i Tim. iii. 16), and who dwells now in the glorified human nature of the Redeemer in the heavenly Jerusalem.

In this connection it should be noticed that Jesus said of His body: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Temple was God’s habitation on Zion; hence it was a symbol of that habitation of God that was to be set up in our hearts. <pb n=“111”/> Hence this saying refers not to the indwelling of the Son in our flesh, but to that of the Holy Spirit in the human nature of Jesus. Wherefore St. Paul writes to the Corinthians: “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you?” If the apostle calls our bodies temples of the Holy Ghost, why should we take it in another sense with reference to Jesus?

If Christ dwelt in our flesh, i.e., in our human nature, body and soul, and if the Holy Ghost dwells, on the contrary, in the temple of our body, we see that Jesus Himself considered His death and resurrection an awful process of suffering through which He must enter into glory, but without being for a single moment separated from the Holy Spirit.



<div2 title=“Seventh Chapter. The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit”>

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Seventh Chapter.



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The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit.


“The Holy Spirit was not yet given because that Jesus was not yet glorified.”—John vii. 39.


We have come to the most difficult part in the discussion of the work of the Holy Spirit, viz., the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the tenth day after the ascension.

In the treatment of this subject it is not our aim to create a new interest in the celebration of Pentecost. We consider this almost impossible. Man’s nature is too unspiritual for this. But we shall reverently endeavor to give a clearer insight into this event to those in whose hearts the Holy Spirit has already begun His work.

For, however simple the account of the second chapter of the Acts may seem, it is very intricate and hard to explain; and he who earnestly tries to understand and explain the event will meet more and more serious difficulties as he penetrates more deeply into the inward connection of the Holy Scripture. For this reason we claim not that our exposition will entirely solve this mystery. We shall endeavor only to fix the sanctified mind of the people of God more earnestly upon it, and convince them that on the whole this subject—is treated too superficially.

Four difficulties meet us in the examination of this event:

First, How shall we explain the fact that while the Holy Spirit was poured out only on Pentecost, the saints of the Old Covenant were already partakers of His gifts?

Second, How shall we distinguish the outpouring of the Holy Spirit nineteen centuries ago from His entering into the soul of the unconverted to-day?

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Third, How could the apostles—having already confessed the good confession, forsaking all, following Jesus, and upon whom He had Breathed, saying, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost “—receive the Holy Spirit only on the tenth day after the ascension?

Fourth, How are we to explain the mysterious signs that accompany the outpouring? There are no angels praising God, but a sound is heard like that of a rushing, mighty wind; the glory of the Lord does not appear, but tongues of fire hover over their heads; there is no theophany, but a speaking in peculiar and uncommon sounds, understood, however, by those present.

With reference to the first difficulty: How to explain the fact that, while the Holy Spirit was poured out only on Pentecost, the saints of the Old Covenant were already partakers of His gifts. Let us put this in the concrete: How are the following passages to be reconciled? “I am with you, saith the Lord of Hosts, and My Spirit remaineth among you, fear ye not” (Hag. ii. 4., 5); and “This spake He of the Holy Spirit which they that believe should receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified” (John vii. 39).

Scripture evidently seeks to impress us with the two facts, that the Holy Spirit came only on the day of Pentecost, and that the same Spirit had wrought already for centuries in the Church of the Old Covenant. Not only does St. John declare definitely that the Holy Spirit was not yet given, but the predictions of the prophets and of Jesus and the whole attitude of the apostles show that this fact may not in the least be weakened.

Let us first examine the prophecies. Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Joel bear undeniable witness to the fact that this was the expectation of the prophets.

Isaiah says: “The palaces shall be forsaken, the multitudes of the city shall be left until the Spirit shall be poured upon us from on high; then the wilderness shall be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be counted for a forest; then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field.” This prophecy evidently refers to an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that shall effect a work of salvation on a large scale, for it closes with the promise: “And the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness, and assurance forever” (Isa. xxxii. 14-17).

In like manner did Ezekiel prophesy “Then will I sprinkle <pb n=“114”/> clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; a new heart also will I give you, and anew spirit will I put within you; and I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes; and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them; and I will save you from all your uncleanness. Not for yourselves will I do this, saith the Lord, be it known unto you” (chap. xxxvi. 25). Ezek. xi. 19 gives the prelude of this prophecy: “Thus saith the Lord God, I will: give them one heart, and I will give a new Spirit within them; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, that they may walk in My statutes.”

Joel uttered his well-known prophecy: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour. My Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also upon thy servants and upon thy handmaidens in those days will I pour out My Spirit” (Joel ii. 30, 31);—a prophecy which, according to the authoritative exposition of St. Peter, refers directly to the day of Pentecost.

Zechariah adds a beautiful prophecy (xii. to): “ I will pour out the Spirit of grace and of supplication.”

It is true that these prophecies were given to Israel during its later period, when the vigorous spiritual life of the nation had already departed. But Moses expressed the same thought in his prophetic prayer: “Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them” (Num. xi. 29). But these prophecies are evidence of the Old Testament prophetic conviction that the dispensation of the Holy Spirit in those days was exceedingly imperfect; that the real dispensation of the Holy Spirit was still tarrying; and that only in the days of the Messiah was it to come in all its fulness and glory.

Regarding the second difficulty, our Lord repeatedly put the stamp of His divine authority upon this prophetic conviction, announcing to His disciples the still future coming of the Holy Spirit: “I will pray the Father and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world can not receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him, for He dwelleth with you and shall be in you” (John xiv. 16, 17); “When the Comforter is come whom I will send from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me” (John xv. 26); “Behold, I send the promise of the Father upon you, and ye shall be endued with power from <pb n=“115”/> on high” (Luke xxiv. 49); “It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away the Comforter will not come unto you, but if I depart, I will send Him unto you. And when He is come; He will reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment” (John xvi. 7, 8). And lastly: He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, “which, with He, ye have heard of Me; for John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. And ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (Acts i. 4., 5, 8).

The third difficulty is met by the fact that the communications of the apostles agree with the teaching of Scripture. They actually tarried in Jerusalem, without even attempting to preach during the days between the ascension and Pentecost. And they explain the Pentecost miracle as the fulfilment of the prophecies of Joel and Jesus. They see in it something new and extraordinary; and show us clearly that in their day it was considered that a man who stood, outside the Pentecost miracle knew nothing of the Holy Ghost. For the disciples of Ephesus being asked, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost?” answered naively: “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.”

Wherefore it cannot be doubted that the Holy Scripture means to teach and convince us that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was His first and real coming into the Church.

But how can this be reconciled with Old Testament passages such as these? “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, the High Priest; . . . for I am with you, . . . and My Spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not” (Hag. ii. 4., 5); and again: “Then He remembered the days of old, Moses, and His people, saying, Where is He that brought them up out of the sea with the Shepherd of His flock? where is He that put His Holy Spirit within them?” (Isa. lxiii. I r). David is conscious that he had received the Holy Spirit, for after his fall he prays: “Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm li. 23). There was a sending forth of the Spirit, for we read: “Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit, and they are created; and Thou renewest the face of the earth” (Psalm civ. 30). There seems to have been an actual descending of the Holy Spirit, for Ezekiel says: “The Spirit of the Lord fell upon me” (chap. xi. 5). Micah testified: “Truly I am full of the power by the Spirit of the Lord” (chap. iii. 8). Of John the Baptist it is written, that he <pb n=“116”/> should be filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb—Luke i. 15. Even the Lord Himself was filled with the Holy Spirit, whom He received without measure. That Spirit came upon Him at Jordan, how then could He be spoken of as still to come?—a question all the more puzzling since we read that in the evening of the resurrection Jesus breathed upon His disciples, saying “Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John xx. 22).

It has been necessary to present this large series of testimonies to show our readers the difficulty of the problem which we will endeavor to solve in the next article.


<div3 title=“XXV. The Holy Spirit in the New Testament Other than in the Old”>

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The Holy Spirit in the New Testament Other than in the Old.


“By His Spirit which dwelleth in you.”—Rom. viii. 11.


In order to understand the change inaugurated on Pentecost we must distinguish between the various ways in which the Holy Ghost enters into relationship with the creature.

With the Christian Church we confess that the Holy Spirit is true and eternal God, and therefore omnipresent; hence no creature, stone or animal, man or angel, is excluded from His presence.

With reference to His omniscience and omnipresence, David sings: “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit, or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up to heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Thy hand lead me and Thy right hand shall hold me.” These words state positively that omnipresence belongs to the Holy Spirit; that neither in heaven nor in hell, in the east nor in the west, is there a spot or point from which He is excluded.

This simple consideration is, for the matter under discussion, of the greatest importance; for it follows that the Holy Spirit can not be said ever to have moved from one place to another; to have been among Israel, but not among the nations; to have been present after the day of Pentecost where He was not before. All such representations directly oppose the confession of His omnipresence, eternity, and immutability. The Omnipresent One can not go from one place to another, for He can not come where He is already. And to suppose that He is omnipresent at one time and not at another is inconsistent with His eternal Godhead. The testimony of John the Baptist, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode on Him,” and that of St. Luke, “The Holy Spirit fell on all them which heard the Word,” may not therefore <pb n=“118”/> be understood as tho the Holy Spirit came to a place where He was not before, which is impossible.

However—and this is the first distinction which will throw light upon the matter—David’s description of omnipresence applies to local presence in space, but not to the world of spirits.

We know not what spirits are, nor what our own spirit is. In the body we can distinguish between nerves and blood, bones and muscles, and we know something of their functions in the organism; but how a spirit exists, moves, and works, we can not tell. We only know that it exists, moves, and works in an entirely different way from that of the body. When a brother dies nobody opens a door or window for the exit of the soul; for we know that neither wall nor ceiling can hinder it in its heavenward flight. In prayer we whisper so as not to be overheard; yet we believe that the man Jesus Christ hears every word. The swiftness of a thought exceeds that of electricity. In a word, the limitations of the material world seem to disappear in the realm of spirits.

Even the working of spirit on matter is wonderful. The average weight of an adult is abut one hundred and sixty pounds. It takes three or four men to carry a dead body of that weight to the top of a high building; yet when the man was alive his spirit had the power to carry this weight up and down those flights of stairs easily and quickly. But where the spirit takes hold of the body, how it moves it, and where it obtains that swiftness, is for us a perfect mystery. Yet this shows that spirit is subject to laws wholly, different from those that govern matter.

We emphasize the word law. According to the analogy of faith, there must be laws that govern the spiritual world as there are in the natural; yet owing to our limitations we can not know them. But in heaven we shall know them, and all the glories and particulars of the spiritual world, as our physicians know the nerves and tissues of the body.

This we know, however, that that which applies to matter does not therefore apply to spirit. God’s omnipresence has reference to all space, but not to every spirit. Since God is omnipresent, it does not follow that He also dwells in the spirit of Satan. Hence, it is clear that the Holy Spirit can be omnipresent without dwelling in every human soul; and that He can descend without changing place, and yet enter a soul hitherto unoccupied by, Him; and that He was present among Israel and among the Gentiles, and yet <pb n=“119”/> manifested Himself among the former and not among the latter. From this it follows that in the spiritual world He can come where He was not; that He came among Israel, not having been among then before; and that then He manifested Himself among them less powerfully and in another way than on and before the day, of Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit seems to act upon a human being in a twofold manner—from without, or from within. The difference is similar to that in the treatment of the human body by the physician and the surgeon: the former acts upon it by medicines taken inwardly; the latter by incisions and outward applications. A very defective comparison, indeed, but it may illustrate faintly the twofold operation of the Holy Spirit upon the souls of men.

In the beginning we discover only an outward imparting of certain gifts. On Samson He bestows great physical strength. Aholiab and Bezaleel are endowed with artistic talent to build the tabernacle. Joshua is enriched with military genius. These operations did not touch the center of the soul, and were not saving, but merely external. They become more enduring when they assume an official character as in Saul; altho in him we find the best evidence of the fact that they are only outward and temporal. They assume a higher character when they receive the prophetic stamp; altho Balsam’s example shows us that even thus they penetrate not to the center of the soul, but affect man only outwardly.

But in the Old Testament there was also an inward operation in believers. Believing Israelites were saved. Hence they must have received saving grace. And since saving grace is out of the question without an inward working of the Holy Spirit, it follows that He was the Worker of faith in Abraham as well as in ourselves.

The difference between the two operations is apparent. A person outwardly wrought upon may become enriched with outward gifts, while spiritually he remains as poor as ever. Or„ having received the inward gift of regeneration, he may be devoid of every talent that adorns man outwardly.

Hence we have these three aspects:

First, there is the omnipresence of the Holy Spirit in space, the same in heaven and in hell, among Israel and among the nations.

Second, there is a spiritual operation of the Holy Spirit according to choice, which is not omnipresent; active in heaven, but not in hell; among Israel, but not among the nations.

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Third, this spiritual operation works either from without, imparting losable gifts, or from within, imparting the unlosable gift of salvation.

We have spoken so far of the work of the Holy Spirit upon individual persons, which was sufficient to explain that work in the days of the Old Testament. But when we come to the day of Pentecost, this no longer suffices. For His particular operation, on and after that day, consists in the extending of His operation to a company of men organically united.

God did not create humanity as a string of isolated souls, but as a race. Hence in Adam the souls of all men are fallen and defiled. In like manner the new creation in the realm of grace has not wrought the generation of isolated individuals, but the resurrection of a new race, a peculiar people, a holy priesthood. And this favored race, this peculiar people, this holy priesthood is also organically one and partaking of the same spiritual blessing.

The Word of God expresses this by teaching that the elect constitute one body, of which all are members, one being a foot, another an eye, and another an ear, etc.—a representation that conveys the idea that the elect mutually sustain the relation of a vital, organic, and spiritual union. And this is not merely outwardly, by mutual love, but much more through a vital communion which is theirs by virtue of their spiritual origin. As our Liturgy beautifully expresses it: “For as out of many grains one meal is ground and one bread baked, and out of many berries, being pressed together, one wine floweth and mixeth itself together, so shall we all, who by a true faith are ingrafted into Christ, be altogether one body.”

This spiritual union of the elect did not exist among Israel, nor could it exist during their time. There was a union of love, but not a spiritual and vital fellowship that sprang from the root of life. This spiritual union of the elect was made possible only by the incarnation of the Son of God. The elect are men consisting of body and soul; therefore it is partly at least a visible body. And only when in Christ the perfect man was given, who could be the temple of the Holy Spirit body and soul, did the inflowing and outpouring of the Holy Spirit become established in and through the body thus created.

However, this did not occur directly after the birth of Christ, but after His ascension; for His human nature did not unfold its fullest perfection until after He had ascended, when, as the glorified <pb n=“121”/> Son of God, He sat down at the right hand of the Father. Only then the perfect Man was given, who on the one hand could be the temple of the Holy Ghost without hindrance, and on the other unite the spirits of the elect into one body. And when, by His ascension and sitting down at the right hand of God, this had become a fact, when thus the elect had become one body, it was perfectly natural that from the Head the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was imparted to the whole body. And thus the Holy Spirit was poured out into the body of the Lord, His elect, the Church.

In this way everything becomes plain and clear: clear why the saints of the Old Testament did not receive the promise, that without us they should not be made perfect, waiting for that perfection until the formation of the body of Christ, into which they also were to be incorporated; clear that the tarrying of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit did not prevent saving grace from operating upon the individual souls of the saints of the Old Covenant; clear the word of John, that the Holy Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified; clear that the apostles were born again long before Pentecost and received official gifts on the evening of the day of the resurrection, altho the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the body thus formed did not take place until Pentecost. It becomes clear how Jesus could say, “If I go not away the Comforter will not come unto you,” and again, “But if I go I will send Him unto you”; for the Holy Spirit was to flow into His body from Himself, who is the Head. It becomes clear also that He would not send Him from Himself, but from the Father; clear why this outpouring of the Spirit into the body of Christ is never repeated, and could occur but once; and lastly, clear that the Holy Spirit was indeed standing in the midst of Israel (Isa. lxiii. 12), working upon the saints from without, while in the New Testament He is said to be within them.

We arrive, therefore, at the following conclusions:

First, the elect must constitute one body.

Second, they were not so constituted during the days of the Old Covenant, of John the Baptist, and of Christ while on earth.

Third, this body did not exist until Christ ascended to heaven and, sitting at the right hand of God, bestowed upon this body its unity, in that God gave Him to be Head over all things to tie Church—Ephes. iv, 12.

Lastly, Christ as the glorified Head, having formed His spiritual <pb n=“122”/> body by the vital anion of the elect, on the day of Pentecost poured out His Holy Spirit into the whole body, never more to let Him depart from it.

That these conclusions contain nothing but what the Church of all ages has confessed appears from the fact that the Reformed churches have always maintained:

First, that our communion with the Holy Spirit depends upon our mystic union with the body of which Christ is the Head, which is the underlying thought of the Lord’s Supper.

Second, that the elect form one body under Christ their Head.

Third, that this body began to exist when it received its Head; and that, according to Ephes. i. 22. Christ was given to be the Head after His resurrection and ascension.


<div3 title=“XXVI. Israel and the Nations”>

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Israel and the Nations.


“Because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.”—Acts x. 45.


The question that arises with reference to Pentecost is: Since the Holy Spirit imparted saving grace to men before and after Pentecost, what is the difference caused by that descent of the Holy Spirit?

An illustration may explain the difference. The rain descends from heaven and man gathers it to quench his thirst. When householders collect it each in his own cistern, it comes down for every family separately; but when, as in modern city life, every house is supplied from the city reservoir, by means of mains and water-pipes, there is no more need of pumps and private cisterns. Suppose that a city whose citizens for ages have been drinking each from his own cistern proposes to construct a reservoir that will supply every home. When the work is completed the water is allowed to _ run through the system of mains and pipes into every house. It might then be said that on that day the water was poured out into the city. Hitherto it fell upon every man’s roof: now it streams through the organized system into every man’s house.

Apply this to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, and the difference before and after Pentecost will be apparent. The mild showers of the Holy Spirit descended upon Israel of old in drops of saving grace; but in such a manner only that each gathered of the heavenly rain for himself, to quench the thirst of each heart separately. So it continued until the coming of Christ. Then there came a change; for He gathered the full stream of the Holy Spirit for us all, in His own Person. With Him all saints are connected by the channels of faith. And when, after His ascension, this connection with His saints was completed, and He had received the Holy Spirit from His Father, then the last obstacle was removed and the full stream <pb n=“124”/> of the Holy Spirit came rushing through the connecting channels into the heart of every believer.

Formerly isolation, every man for himself; now organic union of all the members under their one Head: this is the difference between the days before and after Pentecost. The essential fact of Pentecost consisted in this, that on that day the Holy Spirit entered for the first time into the organic body of the Church, and individuals came to drink, not each by himself, but all together in organic union.

To the question where that system of connecting channels uniting us in one body under our Head may be found, we can give no answer. This belongs to things invisible and spiritual which escape our observation, of which we can have no other representation than that by an image.

Yet this does not alter the fact that the organic union really exists. The Word of God is to us its undeniable witness. Organic life appears in nature in two forms: in the plant, and in the body of man and animal. These are the very types that Christ uses to illustrate the spiritual union between Himself and His people. He said: “I am the Vine, ye are the branches.” And St. Paul speaks of having become one plant with Christ. And he frequently uses the image of the body and its members.

Hence there can be no doubt that there exists a mystic union between Christ and believers which works by means of an organic connection, uniting the Head and the members in a for us invisible and incomprehensible manner. By means of this organic union the Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost from Christ the Head into us, the members of His body.

If it were possible to construct the city’s water-works in the air above the city, the chief engineer could properly say: “When I turn on the water for the first time I will baptize the city with water.” In similar sense Christ may be said to have baptized His Church with the Holy Spirit. For the word of John the Baptist, “I indeed baptize you with water, but He that cometh after me is mightier than I; He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost,” is explained by Christ Himself as referring to the day of Pentecost (Acts i. 5)

“And being assembled together with Him, He commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of Me. For John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the <pb n=“125”/> Holy Ghost not many days hence”; a promise that undoubtedly referred to the Pentecost miracle. This agrees with the fact that Jesus during His ministry allowed His disciples to continue the Baptism of John. And this shows that even before the crucifixion, John and Peter, Philip and Zaccheus, and many others received saving grace of the Holy Spirit, each for himself, but none of them was baptized with the Holy Spirit before the day of Pentecost.

With reference to the apostles, we must therefore distinguish a threefold giving of the Holy Spirit:

First, that of saving grace in regeneration and subsequent illumination—Matt. xvi, 17.

Secondly, official gifts qualifying them for the apostolic office—John 11, 22.

Thirdly, the Baptism with the Holy Ghost—Acts i. 5 in connection with Acts ii. 1 ff.


One more difficulty remains. We often read of outpourings of the Holy Spirit after Pentecost. How can this be reconciled with our explanation? In Acts x. 44, 45 we read: “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all who heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.” And Peter confirms this by saying: “Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” From this it is evident that the outpouring on the house of Cornelius was of the same nature as that on Pentecost. Moreover, we hear of a descent of the Holy Ghost in Samaria (Acts viii.), and of another in Ephesus (Acts xix. 6). This descent took place in both instances after the laying on of hands by the apostles; and at Caesarea and Corinth it was followed by a speaking with foreign tongues as in Jerusalem.

It is evident, therefore, that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was not limited to Pentecost in Jerusalem, but was afterward repeated in a weaker and modified form, but still extraordinarily, as on Pentecost.

And who would deny that there is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to-day in the churches? Without it there can be no regeneration, no salvation. Yet the Pentecost signs are lacking, e.g., there is no more speaking with tongues. Hence it is necessary to <pb n=“126”/> distinguish between the ordinary outpouring which occurs now, and the extraordinary at Corinth, Caesarea, Samaria, and Jerusalem.

Hence the question stands as follows: If on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out once for all and forever, how do we account for the ordinary and extraordinary outpourings?

Allow us once more to recur to our former illustration. Suppose that the city above referred to consisted of a lower and an upper part, both to be supplied from the same reservoir. Upon the completion of its system the lower city may receive the water first, and the upper part receive it only after the system shall have been extended. Here we notice two things: the distribution of the water took place but once, which was the formal opening of the waterworks, and could take place but once; while the distribution of the water in the upper city, altho extraordinary; was but an after-effect of the former event. This is a fair illustration of what took place in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Church consisted of two, parts sharply defined, viz. the Jewish, and the Gentile world. Yet both are to constitute one body, one people, one Church; both are to live one life in the Holy Ghost. On Pentecost He is poured out into the body, but only to quench the thirst of one part, i.e., the Jewish; the other part is still excluded. But now apostles and evangelists start from Jerusalem and come into contact with the Gentiles, and the hour has come for the stream of the Holy Ghost to pour forth into the Gentile part of the Church, and the whole body is refreshed by the same Holy Spirit. Hence there is an original outpouring in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, and a supplementary outpouring in Caesarea for the Gentile part of the Church; both of the same nature, but each bearing its own special character.


Besides these there are some isolated outpourings of the Holy Spirit, attended by the laying on of, the apostles’ hands, as in the case of Simon Magus. We explain this as follows: as from time to time new connections are made between individual houses and the city reservoir, so new parts of the body of Christ were added to the Church from without, into whom the Holy Spirit was poured forth from the body as into new members. It is perfectly natural that in these cases the apostles appear as instruments; and that, receiving into the Church persons that come from a part of the world not yet connected with the Church, they extend to them by <pb n=“127”/> the laying on of hands the fellowship of the Holy Ghost who dwells in the body.

This also explains why to-day newly converted persons receive the Holy Spirit only in the ordinary way. For they who are converted among us stand already in the covenant, belong already to the seed of the Church and to the body of Christ.[14] Hence no new connection is formed, but a work of the Holy Spirit is wrought in a soul with which He was already related by means of the body.

And thus every objection is met and every detail is put in its own place, and the lines of the domain which had become vague and confused are once more clearly drawn.

It is evident also that the prayer for another outpouring or baptism of the Holy Spirit is incorrect and empty of real meaning. Such prayer actually denies the Pentecost miracle. For He that came and abides with us can no more come to us.


<div3 title=“XXVII. The Signs of Pentecost”>

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The Signs of Pentecost.


“Signs in the earth beneath.”—Acts ii. 19.


Let us now consider the signs that accompanied the outpouring of the Holy Spirit—the sound of a rushing, mighty wind; tongues of fire; and the speaking with other tongues—which constitute the fourth difficulty that meets us in the investigation of the, events of Pentecost (see p. c13). The first and second precede, the third follows the outpouring.

These signs are not merely symbolic. The speaking with other tongues, at least, appears as part of the narrative. Symbols are intended to represent or indicate something or to call, the attention to it; hence it may be omitted without affecting the matter itself. A symbol is like a finger-post on the road: it may be removed without affecting the road. If the Pentecost signs were purely symbolic, the event would have been the same without them; but the absence of the sign of other tongues would have modified the character of the subsequent history completely.

This justifies the supposition that the two preceding signs were also constituent parts of the miracle. The fact that neither of them is an apt symbol strengthens the supposition; for a symbol must speak. The finger-post that leaves the traveler in doubt concerning the direction he is to take is no finger-post. Considering, the fact that for eighteen centuries theologians have been unable to ascertain the significance of the so-called symbols with any degree of certainty, it must be acknowledged that it is difficult to believe that the apostles or the multitude understood their significance at once and in the same way. The issue proves the contrary. They did not understand the signs. The multitude, confounded and perplexed, said one to another: “What meaneth this?” And when Peter arose as an apostle, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, to interpret the miracle, he made no effort to attach any symbolic significance <pb n=“129”/> to the signs, but simply declared that an event had taken place by which the prophecy of Joel was fulfilled.

Did the event of Pentecost then exhaust the prophecy of Joel? By no means: for the sun was not turned into darkness, nor the moon into blood; and we hear nothing of the dreams of old men. Nor could it; the notable day that will exhaust this and so many other prophecies can not come until the return of the Lord. But the holy apostle meant to say, that the day of the Lord’s return was brought so much nearer by this event. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is one of the great events which pledge the coming of that great and notable day. Without it that day can not come. Looking back from heaven, the day of Pentecost will appear to us as the last great miracle immediately preceding the day of the Lord. And since that day shall be attended by awful signs, as was the preparatory day of Pentecost, the apostle puts them together and makes them appear as one, showing that in Joel’s prophecy God points to both events.

If it be certain that the signs attending the Lord’s return—blood, fire, and vapor of smoke—shall not be symbolic, but constituent elements of that last part of the world’s history, viz., its last conflagration, then it is certain that Peter did not understand the signs of Pentecost to be symbolic.

Neither can the still more unsatisfactory explanation be entertained that these signs were intended to draw and fix the attention of the multitude.

The senses of sight and hearing are the most effectual means by which the outside world can act upon our consciousness. In order suddenly to arouse and excite a person, one need only startle him by an explosion or by the flash of a dazzling light. Acting upon this, some of the earlier Methodists used to fire pistols at their revival meetings, hoping that the report and flash would create the desired state of mind. The subsequent excitement of the people would tend to make them more susceptible to the operation of, the Holy Spirit. Similar experiments are those of the Salvation Army. According to this notion, the signs of Pentecost bore a similar character. It is supposed by some that the disciples, still unconverted men, were sitting together in the upper chamber on the defy of Pentecost. To render them susceptible to the inflowing of the Holy Spirit they must be aroused by a noise and fire. It must seem as tho a violent thunder-storm had burst upon the city; flashes of lightning <pb n=“130”/> and peals of thunder were seen and heard. And when the multitude were startled and terrified, then the desired condition for receiving the Holy Spirit prevailed and the outpouring took place. Such extravagances only hurt the, tender sense of the children of God; while it is almost sacrilege to compare the signs of Pentecost to the report of a pistol.

Hence there remains only one other explanation, i.e., to consider the Pentecost signs as actual and real constituents of the event; indispensable links in the chain of occurrences.

When a ship enters the harbor we see the foaming spray under the bow and hear the waters dashing against the sides. When, a horse runs through the street we hear the noise of his hoofs against the pavement and see the clouds of dust. But who will say that these things seen and heard are symbolic? They necessarily belong to those actions and are parts of them, impossible without them. Therefore we do not believe that the Pentecost signs were symbolic, or intended to create a sensation, but that they belonged inseparably to the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, and were caused by it. The outpouring could not take place without creating these signs. When the mountain-stream dashes down the steep sides of the rocks we must hear the sound of rushing waters, we must see the flying spray; so when the Holy Spirit flows down from the mountains of God’s holiness, the sound of a rushing, mighty wind must be heard, and glorious brightness must be seen, and a speaking with foreign tongues must follow.

This will sufficiently explain our meaning. Not that we deny that these signs had also a significance for the multitude. The noise of the horse’s hoofs warns travelers, on the road. And we concede that the purpose of the signs was realized in the perplexity and consternation which they caused in the hearts of those present. But this we maintain, that even in the absence of the multitude and their consternation the sound of a rushing, mighty wind would have been heard and the fiery tongues would have been seen. As the horse’s hoofs cause the ground to vibrate tho there be no traveler in Sight, so the Holy Spirit could not come down without that sound and that, brightness, even tho not a single Jew were to be found in all Jerusalem.

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was real, not apparent. Having found His temple in the glorified Head; He must necessarily flow, down into the body and descend from heaven. And this <pb n=“131”/> descent from heaven and this sowing into the body could not take place without causing these signs.

To penetrate more deeply into this matter is not lawful. On Horeb Elijah heard the Lord pass by in a gentle breeze, Isaiah heard the moving of the door-posts in the Temple. This seems to indicate that the approach of the divine majesty causes a commotion in the elements perceptible to the auditory nerve. But how, we can not tell. We observe, however:

First, that spirit can act upon matter is evident, fox our spirits act upon the body every moment, anal by that action are able to produce sounds. Speaking, crying, singing are nothing but our spirit acting upon the currents of air. And if our spirit is capable of such action, why not the Spirit of the Lord? Whys then, call it mysterious when the Holy, Spirit in His descent so wrought upon the elements that the effects vibrated in the ears of those present?

Secondly, in making the covenant with Israel upon Sinai, the Lord God spoke in peals of thunder so terrible that even Moses said, “I am exceedingly fearful and quaking”; yet not with the intention of terrifying the people, but because a holy and angry God can not speak otherwise to a sinful generation. It is not therefore surprising that the coming of God to His New Covenant people is attended by similar signs, not in order to draw men’s attention, but because it could not be otherwise.

The same applies to the tongues of fire. Supernatural manifestations are always attended by light and brightness, especially when the Lord Jehovah or His angel appears. Recall, e:g., God’s covenant-making with Abraham, or the occurrences at the burning bush., Why, then, should it surprise us that the descent of the Holy Spirit was attended by phenomena such as those seen by Elijah on Horeb, Moses in the bush, St. Paul on the way to Damascus, and St. John on Patmos? That the cloven tongues sat upon each of them proves nothing to the contrary; for He proceeded to each of, them and entered their hearts, and in each going He left a trace of light behind.

The question, whether the fire seen by these men on those occasions belonged to a higher sphere, or was the effect of God’s action upon the elements of the earth, cannot be answered.

Both views have much in their favor. There is no darkness in heaven; and the heavenly light must be of a higher nature than ours, even above the brightness of the sun, according to St. Paul’s <pb n=“132”/> description of the light on the way to Damascus. It is very probable, therefore, that in these great events the boundary of heaven overlapped the earth, and a higher glory shone in upon our atmosphere.

But, on the other hand, it is possible that the Holy Spirit wrought this mysterious brightness directly by a miracle. And this seems to be confirmed by the fact that the signs attending the law-giving on Sinai, which event was parallel to this, were not from higher spheres, but wrought from earthly elements.

Finally, let it be noticed, that the outpouring of the Holy spirit on the house of Cornelius and on the disciples of Apollos was attended by a speaking with other tongues, but not by the other signs. This confirms our theory; for it was not a coming to the house of Cornelius, but a conducting of the Holy Spirit into another part of the body of Christ. If symbolism had been intended, the signs would have been repeated; not being symbols, they did not appear.


<div3 title=“XXVIII. The Miracle of Tongues”>

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The Miracle of Tongues.


“If any man speak in an (unknown) tongue, . . . let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him speak to himself, and to God.”—1 Cor. xiv. 27, 28.


The third sign following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit consisted in extraordinary sounds that proceeded from the lips of the apostles—sounds foreign to the Aramaic tongue, never before heard from their lips.

These sounds affected the multitude in different ways: some called them babblings of inebriated men; others heard in them the great works of God proclaimed. To the latter, it seemed as tho they heard them speaking in their own tongues. To, the Parthian it sounded like the Parthian, to the Arabian like the Arabic, etc.; while St. Peter declared that this sign belonged to the realm of revelation, for it was the fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel that all the people should become partakers of the operation of the Holy Spirit.

The question how to interpret this wonderful sign has occupied the thinking minds of all times. Allow us to offer a solution, which we present in the following observations:

In the first place—This phenomenon of spiritual speaking in extraordinary sounds is not confined to Pentecost nor to the second chapter of the Acts.

On the contrary, the Lord told His disciples, even before the ascension, that they should speak with new tongues—Mark xvi. 8. And from the epistles of St. Paul it is evident that this prophecy did not refer to Pentecost alone; for we read in 2 Cor. xii. 10 that in the apostolic Church, spiritual gifts included that of tongues; that some spoke in ykm yAwrrw, i.e., in kinds of tongues or sounds. In ver. 18 the apostle declares that God has set this spiritual phenomenon in the Church. It is noteworthy that in 1 Cor. xiv. i-33 the apostle gives special attention to this extraordinary sign, showing <pb n=“134”/> that then it was quite ordinary. That the gift of tongues mentioned by St. Paul and the sign of which St. Luke speaks in Acts ii., are substantially one and the, same can not be doubted. In the first place; Christ’s prophecy is general: “They shall speak, with new tongues.” Secondly, both phenomena are said to have made irresistible impressions upon unbelievers. Thirdly, both are treated as spiritual gifts. And lastly, to both is applied the same name.

Yet there was a very perceptible difference between the two: the miracle of tongues on the day of Pentecost was intelligible to a large number of hearers of different nationalities; while in the apostolic churches it was understood only by a few who were called, interpreters. Connected with this is the fact that the miracle on Pentecost made the impression of speaking at once to different hearers in different tongues so that they were edified. However, this is no fundamental difference. Altho in the apostolic churches there were but few interpreters, yet there were some who understood the wonderful speech.

There was, moreover, a marked difference between the men thus endowed: some understood what they were saying; others did not. For St. Paul admonishes them, saying: “Let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue, pray that he may interpret” (1 Cor, xiv, r3). Yet even without this ability, the speaking with tongues had an edifying effect upon the speaker himself; but it was an edification not understood, the effect of an unknown operation in the soul.

From this we gather that the miracle of tongues consisted in the uttering of extraordinary sounds which from existing data could $e, explained neither by the speaker nor by the hearer; and to which another grace was sometimes added, viz., that of interpretation. Hence three things were possible: that the speaker alone understood what he said; or, that others understood it and not himself; or, that both speaker and hearers understood it. This, understanding has reference to one or more persons.

On the ground of this we comprise these miracles of tongues in one class; with this distinction, however, that on the day of Pentecost the miracle appeared perfect, but later on incomplete. As there is in the miracles of Christ in raising the dead a perceptible increase of power: first, the raising up of one just dead (the daughter of Jairus), then, of one about to be buried (the young man of Nam), and lastly, of one already decomposing (Taazarus); so there is also in the miracle of tongues a difference of power—not increasing, but decreasing. <pb n=“135”/> The mightiest operation of the Holy Spirit is seen first, then those less powerful. It is precisely the same as in our own heart: first, the mighty fact of regeneration; after that, the less marked manifestations of spiritual power. Hence on Pentecost there was the miracle of tongues in its perfection; later on in the churches, in weaker measure.


Secondly—There is no evidence that the miracle of tongues consisted in the speaking of one of the known languages not previously acquired.

If this had been the case, St. Paul could not have said: “If I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful” (1 Cor. xiv. 14). The word “unknown” appears in italics, not being found in the Greek. Moreover, he says that tongues are for a sign not to them that believe, but to them that believe not—ver. az. If it had been a question of foreign but ordinary languages, the matter of understanding them could not depend upon faith, but simply upon the fact whether the language was acquired by study or was one’s native tongue.

Finally, the notion that these tongues refer to foreign languages not acquired by study is contradicted by St. Paul: “I thank my God that I speak with tongues more than ye all.” By which he can not mean that he had mastered more languages than others, but that he possessed the gift of tongues in greater degree than other men. The following verse is evidence: “Yet in the Church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in an (unknown) tongue.” According to the other view, this ought to have been: “I wish to speak in one language, so that the Church may understand me, rather than in ten or twenty languages which the Church understands not.” But the apostle does not say this. He speaks not of many languages in opposition to one, but of five sounds or words against ten thousand words. From this it follows that St. Paul’s “I speak with glottai (languages or sounds) more than ye all,” must refer to the miracle of sounds.

For altho it is objected very naturally that on Pentecost the apostles spoke the Arabic, Hebrew, and Parthian tongues besides many others, yet the fact appealed to is not proven to be a fact. Surely we learn from Acts ii. that these Parthians, Elamites, etc., received the impression that they were addressed each in his own <pb n=“136”/> tongue; yet the narrative itself proves rather the contrary. Let the experiment be tried. Let fifteen men (the number of languages mentioned in Acts ii.) speak in fifteen different languages at once and together, and the result will be not that every one hears his own language, but that no one can hear anything. But the narrative of Acts ii. is fully explained in that the apostles uttered sounds intelligible to Parthians, Medes, Cretans, etc., because they understood them, receiving the impression that these sounds agreed with their own mother-tongues. As a Dutch child seeing a problem on the blackboard worked out by an English or German child naturally receives the impression that it was done by a Dutch child, simply because figures are signs not affected by the difference of language, so must the Islamite have received the impression that he heard the Elamitian, and the Egyptian that he was addressed in the Egyptian tongue, when on Pentecost they heard sounds uttered by a miracle, which, being independent from the difference of language, were intelligible to man as man.

We must not forget that speaking is nothing else than to produce impressions upon the soul of the hearer by means of vibrations in the air. But if the same impressions can be produced without the aid of air-vibrations, the effect upon the hearer must be the same. Try the experiment upon the eye. The sight of twinkling stars or dissolving figures excites the retina. The same effect can be produced by rubbing the eye with the finger when reclining on a couch in a dark room. And this applies here. The air vibrations are not the principal thing, but the emotion produced in the mind by the speaking. The Pamphylian, accustomed to receive emotions by hearing his mother-tongue, and receiving the same impression in another way, must think that he is addressed in the Pamphylian tongue.


Thirdly—According to St. Paul’s interesting information, the miracle of tongues consisted in this, that the vocal organs produced sounds not by a working of the mind, but by an operation of the Holy Spirit upon those organs.

St. Luke writes: “They began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts ii. 4); and St. Paul proves exhaustively that the person speaking with tongues spoke not with his understanding, i.e., as a result of his own thinking, but in consequence of an entirely different operation. That this is possible, <pb n=“137”/> we see, first, in delirious persons, who say things outside of their own personal thinking; second, in the insane, whose incoherent talk has no sense; third, in persons possessed, whose vocal organs are used by demons; fourth, in Balaam, whose vocal organs uttered words of blessing upon Israel against his will.

Hence it must be conceded that in man three things are possible:

First, that for a time he maybe deprived of the use of his vocal organs.

Second, that the use of these organs may be appropriated by a spirit who has overcome him.

Third, that the Holy Spirit, appropriating his vocal organs, can produce sounds from his lips which are “new,” and “other” than the language which ordinarily he speaks.


Fourthly—In the Greek these sounds invariably are designated by the word yX6rrac, i.e., tongues, hence language. In the Greek world, from which this word is taken, the word “glotta” always stands in strong opposition to the “logos,” reason.

A man’s thinking is the hidden, invisible, imperceptible process of his mind. Thought has a soul, but no body. But when the thought manifests itself and adopts a body, then there is a word. And the tongue being the movable organ of speech, it was said that the tongue gives a body to the thought. Hence the contrast between the logos, i.e., that which a man thinks with the mind, and the glotta, i.e., that which he utters with the vocal organs.

Ordinarily the glotta comes only through and after the logos. But in the miracle of tongues we discover the extraordinary phenomenon that while the logos remained inactive, the glotta uttered sounds. And since it was a phenomenon of sounds which proceeded not from the thinking mind, but from the tongue, the Holy Scripture calls it very appropriately a gift of the glottai, i.e., a gift of tongue or sound-phenomena.


Lastly—In answer to the question, How must this be understood? we offer the following representation: Speech in man is the result of his thinking; and this thinking in a sinless state is an in-shining of the Holy Spirit. Speech in a sinless state is therefore the result of inspiration, in-breathing of the Holy Spirit.

Hence in a sinless state man’s language would have been the pure and perfect product of an operation of the Holy Spirit. He <pb n=“138”/> is the Creator of human language; and without the injury and debasing influence of sin the connection between the Holy Ghost and our speech would have been complete. But sin has broken the connection. Human language is damaged: damaged by the weakening of the organs of speech; by the separation of tribes and nations; by the passions of the soul; by tie darkening of the understanding; and principally by the lie which has entered in. Hence that infinite distance between this pure and genuine human language which, as the direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the human mind, should have manifested itself, and the empirically existing languages that now separate the nations—a difference like unto that between the glorious Adam and the deformed Hottentot.

But the difference is not intended to remain. Sin will disappear. What sin destroyed will be restored. In the day of the Lord, at the wedding-feast of the Lamb, all the redeemed will understand one another. In what way? By the restoration of the pure and original language upon the lips of the redeemed, which is born from the operation of the Holy Spirit upon the human mind. And of that great, still-tarrying event the Pentecost miracle is the germ and the beginning; hence it bore its distinctive marks: In the midst of the Babeldom of the nations, on the day of Pentecost, the one pure and mighty human language was revealed which one day all will speak, and all the brethren and sisters from all nations and tongues will understand.

And this was wrought by the Holy Spirit. They spake as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance. They spoke a heavenly language to praise God—not of angels, but a language above the influence of sin.

Hence the understanding of this language was also a work of the Holy Spirit. At Jerusalem, only they understood it who were specially wrought upon by the Holy Spirit. The others understood it not. And at Corinth it was not comprehended by the masses, but by him alone to whom it was given of the Holy Ghost.


<div2 title=“Eighth Chapter. The Apostolate”>

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Eighth Chapter.


<div3 title=“XXIX. The Apostolate”>


The Apostolate.


“That ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”—1 John i. 3.


The apostolate bears the character of an extraordinary manifestation, not seen before or after it, in which we discover a proper work of the Holy Spirit. The apostles were ambassadors extraordinary different from the prophets, different from the present ministers of the Word. In the history of the Church and the world they occupy a unique position and have a peculiar significance. Hence the apostolate is entitled to a special discussion.

Moreover, the apostolate belongs to the great things which the Holy Spirit has wrought. All that the Holy Scripture declares concerning the apostles compels us to look for an explanation of their persons and mission in a special work of the Holy Spirit. Before His ascension Jesus predicted repeatedly that they should be His witnesses only after they shall have received the Holy Spirit in an extraordinary manner. Until this promise is fulfilled they remain hiding in Jerusalem. And when they raise the banner of the cross in Jerusalem and in the ends of the earth, they appeal to the power of the Holy Spirit as the secret of their appearance.

The apostolate was holy, and we call them holy apostles, not because they had attained a higher degree of perfection, but “holy’,’ in the Scriptural sense of being separated, set apart, like the Temple and its furniture, for the service of a holy God.

By sin many things have become unholy. Before sin entered <pb n=“140”/> into the world all things were holy. That part of creation which became unholy stands in opposition to that which remained holy. The latter is called Heaven; that which was made holy is called Church. And all that belongs to the Church, to its being and organism, is called holy.

Hence Jesus could say to the disciples who were about to deny Him: “Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” In like manner the members of the Church and their children are called “sanctified”; and in his epistles St. Paul addresses them as holy and beloved: not because they were sinless, but because God had set them as called saints in the realm of His holiness, which by His grace He had separated from the realm of sin. In like manner the Scripture is called holy: not to indicate that it is the record of holy things only, but that its origin is not in man’s sinful life, but in the holy realm of the life of God.

We confess, therefore, that the apostles of Jesus were set apart for the service of God’s holy Kingdom, and that they were qualified for their calling by the power of the Holy Spirit.

By omitting the word “holy,” as many do, we make the apostles common; we consider them as ordinary preachers; in degree above us undoubtedly, being more richly developed, especially by their intercourse with Christ, and as His witnesses very dear to us, but still occupying the same level with other teachers and ministers of the Church of all ages. And so the conviction will be lost that the apostles are men different in kind from all other men; lost the realization that in them appeared a peculiar and unique ministry; lost also the grateful confession that the Lord our God gave us in these men extraordinary grace.

And this explains why some ministers, at the special occasion of installation, departure, or jubilee, apply to themselves apostolic utterances that are not applicable to their persons, but exclusively to the men who occupy a peculiar and unique position in the Church of all ages and all lands. For this reason we repeat purposely the title of honor, “holy apostles,” in order that the peculiar significance of the apostolate may again receive honorable recognition in our churches.


This peculiar significance of the apostolate appears in the Holy Scripture in various ways.

We begin with referring to the prologue of the First Epistle of St. <pb n=“141”/> John, in which, from the fulness of the apostolic sense, the holy apostle solemnly addresses us. He opens his epistle by declaring that they, the apostles of the Lord, occupy an exceptional position regarding the miracle of the incarnation of the Word. He says: “The Word became flesh, and in that incarnate Word, Life was manifested; and that that manifested Life was heard and seen and handled with hands.” By whom? By everybody? No, by the apostles; for he adds emphatically: “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, and shew you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us.”

And what was the aim of this declaration? To save souls? Surely this also, but not this in the first place. The purpose of this apostolic declaration is to bring the members of the Church into connection with the abostolate. For, clearly and emphatically, he adds: “This we declare unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us.” And only after this link is closed, and the fellowship with the apostolate an accomplished fact, he says: “And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”

The apostle’s reasoning is as transparent as glass. Life was manifested in such a way that it could be seen and handled. They who saw and handled it were the apostles; and they were also to declare this life unto the elect. By this declaration the required fellowship between the elect and the apostolate is established. And in consequence of this, there is fellowship also for the elect with the Father and the Son.

This may not be understood as referring only to the people then living; and, regarding Rome, one’s position, Bible in hand, is exceedingly weak if he maintain that this higher significance of the apostolate had reference only to the then living, and not in the same measure to us. Indeed, we, upon whom the end of the ages has come, must maintain the vital fellowship with the holy apostolate of our Lord Jesus Christ. Rome errs by making its bishops the successors of the apostles, teaching that fellowship with the apostolate depends upon fellowship with Rome: an error which is obvious from the fact that St. John expressly and emphatically connects the fellowship of the apostolate with men who have seen and heard and handled that which was manifested of the Word of Life—something to which no Roman bishop can appeal in the present day. Moreover, St. John says distinctly that this fellowship with the apostolate must be the result of the declaration of the Word <pb n=“142”/> of Life by the apostles themselves. And inasmuch as Rome established this fellowship not by the preaching of the Word; but by the sacramental sign, it is in direct opposition to the apostolic doctrine.

However, from this it follows not that Rome errs in the fundamental thought, viv., that every child of God must exercise communion with the Father and the Son through the apostolate; on the contrary, this is St. John’s positive claim. The solution of this apparent conflict lies in the fact that they have not only spoken, but also written: i.e., their declaration of the Word of Life was not limited to the little circle of the men that happened to hear them; on the contrary, by writing they have put their preaching into real and enduring forms; they have sent it out to all lands and nations; that, as the genuine, ecumenic apostles they might bring the testimony of the Life which was manifested to, all the elect of God in all lads and throughout the ages.

Hence even now the apostles are preaching the living Christ in the churches. Their persons have departed, but their personal testimony remains. And that personal testimony, which as an apostolic document has come to every soul in every land and in every age, is the very testimony which even now is the instrument in the hand of the Holy Spirit to translate souls into the fellowship of the fife Eternal.


And if one says, “Surely in this sense their word is still effective; however, it results no longer in fellowship with the apostles, and by means of this fellowship with Christ, but it points us directly to the Savior of our souls, which i$ a more simple way,” then we oppose this unscriptural notion mast energetically.

Such reasoning ignores the body of Christ and overlooks the great fact of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. There is not the saving of a few individual souls, but a bringing together of the body of Christ; and into that body every one that is called must be incorporated. And inasmuch as the King of the Church gives His Sprit now not to separate persons, but exclusively to them that are incorporated, and the inflowing of the Holy Spirit into this body, and principally in the persons of the apostles, took place on Pentecost, therefore no one can receive at the present time any spiritual gift or influence of the Holy Spirit unless he stands in vital connection with the body of the Lord; and that body is unthinkable without the apostles.

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In fact, the apostolic Word comes to the soul to-day as the testimony of what they have seen and heard and handled of the Word of Life. By virtue of this testimony souls are inwardly wrought upon, and by their being incorporated into the body of Christ they become manifest. And this fellowship becomes manifest as a fellowship with the very body of which the apostles are the leaders, in whose persons and in the persons of whose associates the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost.

We know that this view, or this confession rather, is in direct opposition to the view of Methodism,[15] which has pervaded all classes and conditions of men. And the deplorable results have become apparent in various ways. Methodism has killed the conscious appreciation of the sacrament; it is cold and indifferent toward church fellowship; it has cultivated an unlimited disregard for truth in the confession.[16] And while the Lord our God has deemed it necessary to give us a voluminous Holy Scripture, consisting of six-and-sixty books, Methodism has boasted that it could write its Gospel upon a dime.

This error can not be overcome, except the Word of God become again our Teacher and we its docile scholars. And then we shall learn—

(1) Not that a few isolated persons are being rescued from the floods of iniquity, but that a body will be redeemed.

(2) That all that are to be saved will be incorporated into that body.

(3) That this body has Christ as its Head and the apostles as its permanent leaders.

(4) That on Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out into that body.

(5) That even now each of us experiences the gracious operations of the Holy Spirit only through fellowship with this body.

Only when these things are clear to the soul, the glorious word of Christ, “Father, I pray not for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word,” will be well understood. <pb n=“144”/> Taken in the current sense, this word has not the least comfort for us; for then the Lord has prayed only for these then living, who had the privilege of personally hearing the apostles, and who were converted by their verbal testimony. We are entirely excluded. But if this petition be taken in the sense indicated above, as tho Christ would say, “I pray not for My apostles alone, but also for them who through their testimony shall believe on Me, now and in all ages and lands and nations,” then it acquires widest scope, and contains a prayer for every child of God called even now and from our own households.

This unique significance of the apostolate is so deeply embedded in the heart of the Kingdom, that when in the Revelation of St. John we get a glimpse of the New Jerusalem, we see that the city has twelve foundations, and on them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb—Rev. xxi. iq. Hence their significance is not transient and temporary, but permanent and including the whole Church. And when its warfare shall be ended and the glory of the New Jerusalem shall be revealed, even then, in its heavenly bliss, the Church shall rest upon the very foundation on which it was built here, and therefore bear, engraven on its twelve foundations, the names of the holy apostles of the Lord.

The apostle Paul considers the apostolate so glorious and exalted that in his Epistle to the Hebrews he applies the name of Apostle to the Lord Jesus Christ. “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.” The meaning is perfectly clear. Properly speaking, it is Christ Himself calling and testifying in His Church. But as the white ray of light divides itself into many colors, so does Christ impart Himself to His twelve apostles, whom He has set as the instruments through whom He has fellowship with His Church. Hence the apostles stand not each by himself, but together they constitute the apostolate, the unity of which is found not in St. Peter nor in St. Paul, but in Christ. If we should wish to comprehend the whole apostolate in one, it must be He in whom is contained the fulness of the twelve—the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ the Lord.

Not until we fully grasp these thoughts and live in them shall we be able to understand the epistles of St. Paul, and appreciate his spiritual conflict to maintain the honor of the apostolate for his divine mission. Especially in his epistles to the Corinthians and <pb n=“145”/> Galatians he sustains this conflict bravely and effectually; but in such a way that the Methodist can not have eye or ear for it. He rather feels like deploring the apostle’s zeal, saying: “If Paul had insisted less on his title and more humbly applied himself to the conversion of souls, his memory would have been much more precious.” And from his standpoint he is quite right. If the apostolate has no higher significance than to be the first teachers and ministers of the Church, then there can be no reason why St. Paul should waste his strength contending for a meaningless title.

But the undeniable fact that St. Paul’s energetic contending agrees not with the current opinions of the present time ought to make us oppose the notion that, since his contention does not comport with our opinions, he must be wrong! and acknowledge that the standpoint which we can not occupy without condemning the apostle must be abandoned—the sooner the better. St. Paul must not conform himself to our opinions, but our opinions must be modified or altered according to St. Paul’s.


<div3 title=“XXX. The Apostolic Scriptures”>

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The Apostolic Scriptures.


“And I think that I also have the Spirit of God.”—1 Cor. vii. 40.


We have seen that tie apostolate has an extraordinary significance and occupies a unique position. This position is twofold, viz., temporary, with reference to the founding of the first churches, and permanent, with regard to the churches of all ages.

The first must necessarily be temporary, for what was then accomplished can not be repeated. A tree can be planted only once; an organism can be born only once; the planting or founding of the Church could take place only once. However, this founding was not unprepared for. On the contrary, God has had a Church in the world from the beginning. That Church was even a world-Church. But it went down in idolatry; and only a small Church remained among an almost unknown people—the Church in Israel. When this particular Church was to become again a world-Church, two things were required:

First, that the Church in Israel lay aside its national dress.

Secondly, that in the midst of the heathen world the Church of Christ appear, so that the two might become manifest as the one Christian Church.

By these two things the apostolic labor is almost exhausted. In St. Paul the two are united. No apostle labored more zealously to divest the Church of Israel of its Jewish attire, and no one was more abundant in the planting of new churches in all parts of the world.

The apostolate had, however, a much more extensive and higher calling, not only for those days, but also for the Church of the ages. It was the task of the apostles for which they were, ordained: by giving to the churches fixed forms of government to determine their character; and by the written documentation of the revelation of Christ Jesus to secure to them purity and perpetuity. .

This is evident from the character of their labors: for they not <pb n=“147”/> only founded churches, but also gave them ordinances. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians: “As I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye” (1 Cor. xvi. 2). Hence they were conscious of possessing power, of being clothed with authority: “And so ordain I in all the churches,” says the same apostle (1 Cor, vii. 17). This ordaining is not like that of our official church boards which have power to make rules; or as a minister in the name of the consistory announces from the pulpit certain regulations. Nay, the apostles exercised authority by virtue of a power they consciously possessed in themselves, independent of any church or church council. For St. Paul writes, after having given ordinances in the matter of marriages: “And I think that I also have the Spirit of God.” Hence the power and authority to command, to ordain and to judge in the churches, they derived not from the Church, nor from church council, nor from the apostolate, but directly from the Holy Spirit. This is true even of the power to judge; for, concerning an. incestuous person in the church of Corinth, St. Paul judged that he should be delivered to Satan; the execution of which sentence he left to the elders of that church, but upon which he had determined by virtue of his apostolic authority—1 Cor. v. 3.

In this connection it is remarkable that St. Paul was conscious of a twofold current running through his word: (1) that of tradition, touching the things ordained by the Lord Jesus during His ministry; and (2) that of the Holy Spirit, touching the things to be decided by the apostolate. For he writes: “Now concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord; yet I give my judgment as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful” (1 Cor. Vii. 25). And again he saith: “Unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband” (ver. 10). And in verse 12 he saith: “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord.” Many have received the impression that St. Paul meant to say: “What the Lord commanded, you must keep; but the things by me enjoined are of less account and not binding”;—a view destroying the authority of the apostolic word, and therefore to be rejected. The apostle has not the least intention of undermining his own authority; for having delivered the message, he adds expressly:

“And I think that I also have the Spirit of God”; which, in connection with the commandment of the Lord, can not mean anything else than this: “That which I have enjoined rests upon the same authority as the Lord’s own words”; a declaration which was already <pb n=“148”/> contained in the word: “I have received mercy to be faithful,” i.e., in my work of regulating the churches.

By these ordinances and regulations the apostles not only gave to the churches of those days a fixed form of life, but they also prepared the channel that was to determine the future course of the life of the Church. They did this in two ways:

First, partly by the impressions they made upon the life of the churches, and which were never wholly obliterated.

Secondly, partly also and more particularly by leaving us in writing the image of that Church, and by sealing the principal features of these ordinances in their apostolic epistles.

Both these influences, that directly on the life of the churches, and that of the apostolic Scriptures, have taken care that the image of the Church should not be lost, and that, where it was in danger of such loss, by the grace of God it should be fully restored.


This leads us to consider the second activity of the apostles, whereby they operated upon the Church of all ages, viz., the in heritance of their writings.

Our writings are the richest and maturest products of the mind; and the mind of the Holy Spirit received its richest, fullest, and most perfect expression when His meaning was put into documental form. The literary labor of the apostles deserves, therefore, careful attention.

When the apostles Peter and Paul preached the Gospel, healed the sick, judged the unruly, and founded churches, giving them ordinances, they performed in each of these a great and glorious work. And yet the significance of St. Paul’s labor when he wrote, e.g., the Epistle to the Romans so far surpassed the value of preaching and healing that the two can not be compared. When he wrote that one little book, which in ordinary pamphlet form would make no more than three sheets of printed mater, he performed the greatest work of his life. From this little book the most far-reaching influences have gone forth. By this one little book St. Paul became a historic person.

We know, indeed, that many of our present theologians reverse this order, and say: “These apostles were profoundly spiritual men; they lived near the Lord and had entered deeply into the mind of Christ; they labored and preached and occasionally wrote a few letters, some of which have come down to us; yet this letter-writing <pb n=“149”/> was of little significance to their persons”; but against this whole representation we protest with all our might. Nay, these men were not such excellent personalities that the few occasional letters from their hands could scarcely have any significance in their lives. On the contrary, their epistolary labor was the most important of all their lifework; small in compass, but rich in content; apparently of less, but by virtue of its comprehensive and far-reaching influence of much higher significance. And since the apostles may not be considered half-idiots, knowing scarcely anything of the future of the Church, and without any realization of what they were doing, we maintain that a man like St. Paul, having finished his Epistle to the Romans, was indeed conscious of the fact that this work would occupy a prominent place among his apostolic labors.

Even tho it be granted that the apostle was unconscious of it, yet this alters not the fact. To-day, when the churches founded eighteen centuries ago have all past away, and the church of Rome can scarcely be recognized; when the people who by his wonderful power were healed or saved have all crumbled to dust, and not a single memory remains of all his other toil; to-day his epistolary inheritance still governs the Church of Christ.

We can not conceive what the condition of the Church would be without St. Paul’s epistles; if we were to lose the inheritance of the great apostle that has come to us through our fathers. What is it that controls our confession, if not the truths developed by him; what is it that governs our lives, if not the ideals so highly exalted by him? We can safely say, with reference to our own. Church, that without the Pauline epistles its whole form and appearance would be totally different.

This being so, we are also justified in saying that the objectifying of Christian truth in the apostolic epistles is the most important of all their labors. Instead of calling it a “dead-letter,” we confess that in it their activity reached its very zenith.


However, the peculiar work of the Holy Spirit in the apostolate being the subject of our present inquiry, and not the apostolate itself, we will consider now the serious question: What is the nature of this work?

Our choice lies between the theory of the mechanical, and that of the natural, process.

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The supporters of the first say: “Nothing can be more simple than the work of the Holy Spirit in the apostles. They had only to sit down, take pen and ink, and write at His dictation.” The advocates of the natural process state its case as follows: “The apostles had entered more deeply into the mind of Christ; they were holier, purer, and more godly than others; hence they were better fitted to be the instruments of the Holy Spirit, who after all animates every child of God.” These are the extreme views. On the one hand, the work of the Holy Spirit is considered as a foreign element introduced into the life of the Church and that of the apostles. Any schoolboy competent to write a dictation might have written the Epistle to the Romans joist as well as St. Paul. The obvious difference of style and manner of presentation between his epistles and those of St. John does not spring from the difference of personalities, but from the fact that the Holy Spirit purposely adopted the style and way of speaking of His chosen scribe, be lie St. Paul or St. John.

The other extreme considers that the persons of the apostles account for the Whole matter; so that to speak of a work of the Holy, Spirit is only to repeat a pious term. According to this view, the influence of Christ’s personal intercourse had an educating effect upon His disciples, which left such impress of His life upon them that they could understand His Person and aims much better than others; hence being the best-developed minds of the Christian circle of those days, they adopted in their writings—a certain apostolic authority.

Besides these two extremes, we must mention the view of certain friendly theologians who turn this natural into a supernatural, but still self-developed, process. They acknowledge, with us, that there is a work of the Holy Spirit which they also call regeneration, and allow that to this the gift of illumination is often added. And from this they argue: “Among the regenerated there are some in whom this divine work is only superficial, and others in whom He operates more deeply. In the former; the gift of illumination is undeveloped; in the latter, it attains great luster; and it is to this class that the apostles belonged, who were partakers of this gift in its highest degree. Owing to these two gifts, the work of the Holy Spirit attained in them such clearness and transparency that, in speaking or writing concerning the things of the Kingdom of God, they struck almost invariably the right note, chose the right word, <pb n=“151”/> and continued in the right direction. Hence the power of their writings, and the almost binding authority of their word.”

Over against these three opponents we wish to present the view of the best theologians of the Christian Church, which, altho fully appreciating the effects of regeneration and illumination in the apostles, still maintain that from these the infallible, apostolic authority can not be explained; and that the authority of their word is recognized only by the unconditional confession that these operations of grace were but the means used by the Holy Spirit when, through the apostles, He cast His own testimony into documental forms for the Church of all ages.


<div3 title=“XXXI. Apostolic Inspiration”>

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Apostolic Inspiration.


“When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth.”—John xvi. 13.


What is the nature of the work of the Holy Spirit in the inspiration of the apostles?

Apart from the mechanical and natural theories, which are vulgar and profane, there are two others, viz., the Ethical and the Reformed.

According to the former the inspiration of the apostles differs from the animation of believers only in degree, not in nature. They represent the matter as tho, by the incarnation of the Word, a new sphere of life was created which they call the “God-human.” They that have received the life of this higher sphere are called believers; others are unbelievers. In these believers the consciousness is gradually changed, illuminated, and sanctified. Hence they see things in a different light, i.e., their eyes are opened so that they see much of the spiritual world of which unbelievers see nothing. However, this result is not the same in all believers. The more favored see more correctly and distinctly than the less favored. And the most excellent among them, who possess this God-human life most abundantly, and look into the things of the, Kingdom with greatest clearness and distinctness, are the men called apostles. Hence the inspiration of the apostles and the illumination of believers are in principle the same; differing only in degree.

The Reformed churches can not agree with this view. In their judgment the very effort to identify apostolic inspiration with the illumination of believers actually annihilates the former. They hold that the inspiration of the apostles was wholly unique in nature and kind, totally different from what the Scripture calls illumination of believers. The apostles possessed this latter gift even in its <pb n=“153”/> highest degree, and we heartily indorse all that the Ethical theologians say in this respect. But, when all is said, we hold that apostolic inspiration is not even touched upon; that it lies entirely outside of it; is not contained in, but added to, it; and that the Church must reverence it as an extraordinary, peculiar, and unique work of the Holy Spirit, which was wrought exclusively in the holy apostles.

Hence both sides concede that the apostles were born again, that they had received illumination in a peculiarly high degree. But while the Ethical theorists maintain that this extraordinary illumination includes inspiration, the Reformed hold that illumination in its highest degree has nothing to do with inspiration; which was unique in its kind, without equal, given to the apostles alone; never, to other believers.

The difference between the two views is obvious.

According to the Ethical view, the epistles are the writings of very worthy, godly, and sanctified men; the thoughtful utterances of highly enlightened believers. And yet, having said all this, they are after all only fallible; they may contain ninety per cent of truth, well expressed and accurately defined; but the possibility remains that the other ten per cent. is full of errors and mistakes Even tho there be one or more infallible epistles, how can this avail us, since we do not know it? In fact, we are without the least certainty in this matter. And for this reason it is actually conceded that the apostles have made mistakes.

Hence the Reformed churches can not accept this fascinating representation; and the conscience of believers mill always protest against it. What we expect in “holy apostles” is this very certainty, reliability, and decision. Reading their testimony, we want to rely upon it. This certainty alone has been the strength of the Church of all ages. This conviction alone has given her rest. And the Church of to-day feels as instinctively that the reliability of the Word that is its Bible is being taken away from it, inasmuch as, these beautifully sounding theories strip the apostolic word of its infallibility.


The holy apostles appear in their writings as such, and not otherwise. St. John, the most beloved among the twelve, testifies that the Lord Jesus gave them as apostles a rare promise, saying, “He shall guide you into all truth,” a word that may not be applied to <pb n=“154”/> others, but to the apostles exclusively. And again: “The Comforter which is the Holy Ghost shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things whatsoever I have said unto you”, (John xiv. 26); which promise was not intended for all, but for the apostles only, securing them a gift evidently distinct from illumination. In fact, this promise was nothing else than the permanent endowment with the gift received only temporarily when they went forth on their first mission among Israel: “For it is, not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.”

Moreover, the Lord Jesus did not only promise them that the word proceeding from their mouth would be a word of the Holy Spirit, but He granted them such personal power and authority that it would be as tho God Himself spoke through them. St. Paul testified of this to the church of Thessalonica, saying: “For this cause we thank God that ye received it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the Word of God” (1 Thess. ii. 13). And St. John tells us that, both before and after the resurrection, the Lord Jesus gave His disciples dower to bind on earth in the sense that their word would have binding power forever: “Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained”; words that are horrible and untenable except they be understood as implying perfect agreement between the minds of the apostles and the mind of God. Of similar import are the words of Christ to Peter: “Whatsoever thou shalt, bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”


However, reading and pondering these remarkable and weighty words, let us be careful not to fall into the error of Rome, or, in order to escape from this, make the Word of God of no effect, which is equally dangerous. For the Church of Rome applies these words of Jesus to His disciples, to the whole Church as an institution; especially the word to Peter, making it to refer to all Peter’s successors (so-called) in the government of the Church of Rome. If that be indeed the meaning of these words, then Rome is perfectly right; then to the Pope is granted power to bind, and the priests of Rome have still the power to absolve. Our reason for denying that Rome has this power is not the impossibility for men to have it, for it was given to the apostles; Peter was infallible in his sentences ex cathedra, and the apostles could grant absolution. But we <pb n=“155”/> deny that Rome has the slightest authority to confer this power of Peter upon the Pope, or that of the apostles upon its priests. Neither Matt, xvi. 19 nor John 11. 23 contains the least proof for such claim. And inasmuch as no man has the liberty to exercise such extraordinary power except he can show the credential’s of his mission, so we deny Rome’s qualifications to exercise it in pope or priest, not because this is impossible, but because Rome can not substantiate its claims.

At the same time, let us, in our contending with Rome, not fall into the opposite error of disparaging the plain and clear meaning of the word. This is done by the Ethical theologians; for the words of Jesus referred to do not receive justice so long as we refuse to recognize in the apostles a working of the Holy Spirit entirely peculiar, unique, and extraordinary. We dilute the words of Jesus and violate their sense so long as we do not acknowledge that, if the apostles were still living, they would have the power to forgive us our sins; and that Peter, if he were still living, would have power and authority to issue ordinances binding upon the whole Church. The words are so plain, the qualification was, granted in such definite terms, that_ it can not be denied that John could forgive sin, and that Peter had power to issue an infallible decree. The Lord said to the disciples:” Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them”; and to Peter: “Whatsoever thou shah bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.”

Thus acknowledging the unique position and extraordinary power of the apostles, we immediately add that this power was granted to them alone and to no one else.

We emphasize this in opposition to Rome and to those who apply the words of Christ, spoken to His disciples exclusively, to ministers and other believers. Neither Rome nor the Ethical theologians have the right to do this, unless they can show that the Lord Jesus gave them such right. But they never can. Care should betaken, therefore, in the choice of texts, proofs, and quotations from the Scripture, to ascertain not only what is said, but also to whom it was said. And thus the error concerning the apostolate swill soon be overcome; and believers will see that the apostles occupy a different position from other Christians, that the promises quoted bear an exceptional character, and that the Word of the Lord is misunderstood when inspiration is confounded with illumination.

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In opposition to these wrong views, which are Romish, clerical in principle, and at the same time strongly tending to rationalism, we maintain the ancient confession of the Christian Church, which declares that, as the ambassadors extraordinary of Christ, the apostles occupied a unique position in the race, in the Church, and in the history of the world, and were clothed with extraordinary powers that required an extraordinary operation of the Holy Spirit.

But we do not deny that these men were born again and partakers of the heavenly illumination; so that the man of sin was driven, back, and the new man was powerfully revealed in them. But their personal state and condition was the cause of their continued sinfulness until the hour of their death; hence their infallible authority could never spring from the fallible condition of their hearts. Even tho they had been less sinful, such power could not be thus accounted for. And if they had fallen more deeply into sin, it would not have hindered the Holy Spirit’s operation with reference to the exercise of this authority. It is remarkable that Peter, who was clothed with the highest power, fell again and again into great sin. They were saints because they were hid in Christ like other Christians; but they were holy apostles not on the ground of their spiritual state and condition, but only by virtue of their holy calling and the working of the Holy Spirit that was promised and given unto them.

Finally, the question arises, whether there was a difference between the operation of the Holy Spirit in the prophets and in the apostles. We answer in the affirmative. Ezekiel’s oracles are different from St. John’s Gospel. The Epistle to the Romans bears witness to a different inspiration from that of the prophecies of Zacharias. Undoubtedly the book of Revelation proves that the apostles were also susceptible to inspiration by visions; the book of the Acts is evidence that in those days there were also wonderful signs; and St. Paul speaks of visions and ecstasies. And yet the, collective treasure that came down to us under the apostles’ name bears evidence that the inspiration of the New Testament has another character than that of the Old. And the, principal difference consists in the mighty fact of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

The prophets were inspired before Pentecost, and the apostles after it. This fact is so strongly marked in the history of their mission that before it the apostles sit still, while immediately after it they appear in their apostolic character before the world. <pb n=“157”/> And since in the outpouring the Holy Spirit came to dwell in the body of Christ, which before He had been preparing, it is obvious that the difference of inspiration in the Old and the New Testament consists in the fact that the former was wrought upon the prophets from without, while the latter wrought upon the apostles from within, proceeding from the body of Christ.

And this is the reason that the prophets give us more or less the impression of an inspiration independent of their personal, spiritual life, while the inspiration of the apostles alts almost always through the life of the soul. It is this very fact that offers to the error of the Ethical view its starting-point. Surely the person and his condition appear in the apostles much more in the foreground than in the prophets. And yet in both prophet and apostle inspiration is that wholly extraordinary operation of the Holy Spirit whereby, in a manner for us incomprehensible and to them not always conscious, they were kept from the possibility of error.



<div3 title=“XXXII. Apostles To-Day?”>

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Apostles To-Day?


“Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are ye not my work in the Lord?”—1 Cor. ix. 1.


We may not take leave of the apostolate without a last look at the circle of its members. It is a closed circle; and every effort to reopen it tends to efface a characteristic of the New Covenant.

And yet the effort is being made again and again. We see it in, Rome’s apostolic succession; in the Ethical view gradually effacing the boundary-line between the apostles and believers; and in its boldest and most concrete form among the Irvingites.[17]

The latter assert not only that the Lord gave to, His Church a college of apostles in the beginning, but that He has now called a body of apostles in His Church to prepare His people for the coming.

However, this position can not be very successfully supported. Neither in the discourses of Christ, nor in the epistles of the apostles, nor in the Apocalypse, do we find the least intimation of such an event. The end of all things is repeatedly spoken of. The New Testament frequently rehearses the events and signs that must precede the Lord’s return. They are recorded so minutely that some even say that the exact date can be; fixed. And yet, among all these prophecies, we fail to discover the slightest sign of a subsequent apostolate. In the panorama of the things to came there is literally no room for it.

Nor have the results realized the expectations of these brethren. Their apostolate has been a great disappointment. It has accomplished almost nothing. It has come and gone without leaving a trace. We do not deny that some of these men have done wonderful <pb n=“159”/> things; but be it noticed, in the first place, that the signs wrought were far below those performed by the apostles; second, that a man like Pastor Blumhardt has also wrought signs that greatly deserve to be noticed; third, that the Roman Catholic Church sometimes offers signs that are not pretended nor artificial; lastly, that the Lord has warned us in His Word that signs shall be wrought by men who are not His own.

Moreover, let us not forget that the apostles of the Irvingites completely lack the marks of the apostolate. These were: (2) a call directly from the King of the Church; (1) a peculiar qualification of the Holy Spirit making them infallible in the service of the Church. These men lack both marks. They tell us, indeed, of a call come to them by the mouth of prophets, but this is to little or no purpose, for a call from a prophet is not equal to one directly from Christ, and again the name “prophet” is exceedingly misleading. The word prophet has, on the sacred page, a wide application, and occurs in both a limited and a general sense. The former involves the revelation of a knowledge that mere illumination does not afford; while the litter applies to men speaking in holy ecstasy to the praise of God. We concede that prophesying, in the general sense, is an enduring charisma of the Church; for which reason the reformers of the sixteenth century attempted to revive this office. If the Irvingites, therefore, believe that in their circles the prophetic activity has been revived, we will not dispute it; altho we can not say that the reports of their prophesying have had a very overwhelming effect upon us. However, let it be granted that the gift has been restored; but even then we ask: What do you gain by it? For there is not the slightest proof that these prophets and prophetesses are like their predecessors in the Old Testament. The unrevealed will of God has not been revealed to them. If prophets at all, then their prophesying is merely a speaking to the praise of God in a state of spiritual ecstasy.

The uselessness of an appeal to such prophets for the support of this new apostolate is evident. It is merely the effort to support an unsupported apostolate by an equally unsupported prophetism.

Nor should it be forgotten that the labors of these so-called apostles have not carried out their own program. They have failed to exert any perceptible influence upon the course of events. The institutions founded by them have in no respect surpassed the many <pb n=“160”/> new church organizations witnessed by this century. They have established no new principle; their labors have manifested no new power. Whatever they have done lacks the stamp of a heavenly origin. And nearly all these new apostles have died not like the genuine twelve on cross or stake, but on their own beds surrounded by their friends and admirers.

However, this is not all. The name of apostle may be taken (1) in the sense of being called directly by Jesus as an ambassador for. God, or (2) in a general sense, denoting every roan sent by Jesus into His vineyard; for the word apostle means one that is sent. In Acts xiv. 14 Barnabas is called an apostle: not because he belonged to their number, but merely to indicate that he was sent out by the Lord as His missionary or ambassador. In Acts xiii. i, 2 Barnabas is mentioned before Saul, who is not even called by his apostolic name; which shows that this call of the Holy Spirit bore only a temporary character, having in view only this special mission. For this reason the Lord Jesus Christ, as the One sent of the Father, the great Missionary come to this world, the Ambassador of God to His Church, is celled Apostle: “Wherefore, holy brethren, . . . consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus” (Heb. iii. r):

If the Irvingites had called the great reformers of the sixteenth century, or some prominent church leaders of the present time, apostles, there could have been no great objection. But they did not mean this. They claim that these new apostles shall stand before the Church in a peculiar character, on the same plane with the first apostles, altho differently employed. And this can not be conceded. It would be in direct opposition to the apostolic declaration of 1 Cor. iv. 9: “For I think that God hath set us forth as the last apostles, as it were appointed unto death” (see Dutch translation). How could St. Paul speak of the last apostles, if it were God’s plan after eighteen centuries to send other twelve apostles into the world?

In view of this positive word of the Holy Spirit, we direct all those that come into contact with the Irvingites to what the Scripture says concerning them that call themselves apostles, and are not: For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, fashioning themselves into apostles of Christ.” And the Lord Jesus testifies to the church at Ephesus: “I know that thou halt tried them which sad they are apostles and are not.”

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The notion that false apostles must be a sort of incarnate devils applies in no wise to the calm, respectable, and venerable men frequently seen in the circles of the Irvingites. But apart from this absurd notion, and considering that the false prophets of the Old Testament so closely resembled the true ones that at times even the people of God were deceived by them, we can understand that the false apostles of St. John’s day could be detected only by a higher spiritual discernment: and that the pretended apostles of the nineteenth century, who by their similarity to the genuine twelve blinded the eyes of the superficial, could be detected only by the touchstone of the Word of God. And that Word declares that the twelve of St. Paul’s day were the last apostles, which settles the matter of this pretended apostolate.

This error of the Irvingites is therefore not so very innocent. It is easy to explain how it originated. The wretched and deplorable state of the Church must necessarily give rise to a number of sects. And we heartily acknowledge that the Irvingites have sent forth many warnings and well-deserved rebukes to our superficial and divided Church. But these good offices by no means justify the doing of things condemned by the Word of God; and those who have allowed themselves to be carried away by their teachings will sooner or later experience their fatal result. It is already manifest that this movement, which started among us under the pretext of uniting a divided church by gathering together the Lord’s people, has accomplished little more than to add another to the already large number of sects, thus robbing the Church of Christ of excellent powers that now are being wasted.

That the apostolate was a closed circle, and not a flexible theory, is evident from Acts i. 2 5: “Lord, show of these two, the one whom Thou hast chosen to take the place of this ministry and apostleship”; and again from St. Paul’s word (Rom. i. 5):, “By whom we have received grace and apostleship”; and again (r COT. ix. 2): “For the seal of my apostleship are ye in the Lord”; and lastly from Gal. ii. 8: “For He that wrought for Peter unto the; apostleship of the circumcision, wrought for me also unto the Gentiles.” And again it is evident from the fact that the apostles always appear as the twelve; and from their being specially appointed and installed by Jesus breathing upon them the official gift of the Holy Spirit; and from the exceptional power and gifts that, were connected with the apostolate. And it is especially from its conspicuous place in the <pb n=“162”/> coming Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ that the apostolate obtains its definite character. For the Holy Scripture teaches that’, the apostles shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel; and also that the New Jerusalem has “twelve foundations upon which are written the twelve names of the, apostles of the Lamb.”

St. Paul offers us in his own person the most convincing proof, that the apostolate was a closed college. If it had not been, the question whether he was an apostle or not could never have caused contention. Yet a large part of the Church refused to acknowledge his apostleship. He did not belong to the twelve; he had not walked with Jesus; how could he be a witness? It was against this seriously meant contention that St. Paul repeatedly lifted up his voice with such energy and animation. This fact is, the key to the right understanding of his, epistles to the Corinthians and Galatians. They glow with holy jealousy for the reality of his apostleship; for he was deeply convinced that he was an apostle as well as St. Peter and the others. Not by virtue of personal merit; in himself he was not worthy to be called an apostle—1 Cor. xv. 9; but no sooner is his office assailed than hoe arouses himself like a lion, for this touched the honor of his Master, who had appeared unto him in the way to Damascus; not, as is commonly said, to, convert him—for this is not Christ’s work, but that of the Holy Spirit—but to appoint him an apostle in that Church which he was persecuting.

As to the question, how the addition of, St. Paul to the twelve is consistent with that number, we are convinced that not the name of Matthias, but that of St. Paul is written upon the foundations of the New Jerusalem with those of the others; and that not Matthias, but St. Paul shall sit down to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. As one of the tribes of Israel was replaced by two others, so in regard to the apostolate; for Simeon, who fell out, Manasseh and Ephraim were substituted, and Judas was replaced by Matthias and Paul.

We would not imply that the apostles erred in electing Matthias to fill the vacancy occasioned by the suicide of Judas. On the contrary, the completion of the apostolic number could not be delayed until the conversion of St. Paul. The vacancy had to be filled immediately. But it may be said that when the disciples chose Matthias they had too small a conception of the goodness of their Lord. They supposed that for Judas they would receive a Matthias, and <pb n=“163”/> behold, Jesus gave them a Paul. As to the former, the Scripture mentions his election and no more. Yet even tho to the Church of later times the apostolate without St. Paul is unthinkable, and tho. it allowed his person the first place among the apostles and his writings highest in authority among the Scriptures of the New Testament, to the person of Matthias the election to the apostolate must have brought highest honor. The apostolate stands so high that the fact of having been identified with it, even temporarily, imparts greater luster to a man’s name than a royal crown.


<div2 title=“Third Chapter. The Holy Scriptures in the New Testament”>

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Third Chapter.


<div3 title=“XXXIII. The Holy Scriptures in the New Testament”>


The Holy Scriptures in the New Testament.


“But these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name.”—John 11. 31.


Having considered the apostolate, we are now to discuss God’s gift to the Church, viz. the New Testament Scripture.

The apostolate placed a new power in the Church.

Surely all power is in heaven; but it has pleased God to let this power descend in the Church by means of organs and instruments, chief among which is the apostolate. This organ was a consolation of the Comforter, given to the Church after Jesus had ascended to heaven and was provisionally not to govern His Church in person. Hence it was a forsaken Church, not yet planted, and soon to be scattered, to which the Holy Spirit gave the apostolate as a bond of union, as an organ for self-extension, and as an instrument for its own enrichment with the full knowledge of the lift of grace. Commissioned by the King of the Church, the apostles were animated by the Holy Spirit. As the King works for His Church only by the Spirit, so He caused the apostolate to work also by the higher powers of the Holy Spirit.

It was not the Lord’s intention that His Church should set out in ignorance, to wander about in manifold error, finally the long journey ended, to arrive at a clearer perception of the truth; but that from the beginning it should stand in the light of complete knowledge. Hence He gave it the apostolate, that from the cradle of <pb n=“165”/> its existence it should receive the full sunshine of grace, and that no subsequent development of Christendom should ever surpass that of the apostles.

This is a very significant fact.

Indeed, in the course of history there is development, especially in doctrine, which has not yet ceased, and which will continue until the end. The King has cast His Church into the midst of warfare and trouble; He has not permitted it to confess His name in an unmanly and indolent manner, but from age to age He has compelled it to defend that confession against error, misunderstanding, and hostility. It is only in this warfare that it has learned gradually to exhibit every part of its glorious inheritance of truth. God shall judge heretics; but, besides much mischief, they have rendered the Church this excellent service of compelling it to wake up from slumbering upon its gold-mines, to explore them, and to open the hidden treasure.

Hence our conscious insight into the truth is deeper than that of the preceding centuries. Semper excelsior! Ever higher! Research into holy things may never cease; even now the Lord fulfils His promise to every true theologian: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find.” And in the development of the consciousness of the Church concerning its treasure of truth, the Holy Spirit has a special work, and he who denies it leaves the Church to petrify and is blind for the word of the Lord.

Yet, however great its present and future progress, it will never possess a grain of truth more than when the apostolate passed away. Afterward the gold-mine might be explored; but when the apostles died the mine itself existed already. Nothing can be added to it or ever will; it is complete in itself. For this reason the great men of God, who, in the course of ages, by brave words have animated the Church, have always pointed back to the treasures of the apostles, and without exception told the churches: “Your treasure lies not before, but behind you, and dates from the days of the apostles.”

And herein was mercy; any other disposition would have been unmerciful. The people of one or eighteen centuries ago had the same spiritual needs as we have; nothing less than we have could suffice for them. Their wounds are ours; the balm of Gilead that has healed us, healed them also. Consequently the remedy for souls must be ready for immediate use. Delay would be cruel. Hence it is not strange and problematic, but perfectly in accord <pb n=“166”/> with God’s mercy, that the whole treasure of saving truth was given to the Church directly in the first century:

To accomplish this was the mission of the apostolate. It is like medical science in this respect, which makes constant progress in the knowledge of herbs. But however great that progress, no new herb has been produced. Those that exist now, existed always, having the same medicinal properties. The only difference is, that we know better than our ancestors, how to apply them. In like manner, since the days of the apostolate no new remedy for the healing of souls has been created or invented. Indeed, some of the powers then at work are lost to us, e.g., the, charisma of tongues. All the difference between the Church then and now is, that we, according to this thinking and emotional age, understand more profoundly the connection between the effect of the remedy and the healing of our wounds.

This difference does not make us richer or poorer. For the simple peasant it is sufficient to receive the prescribed medicine, altho he is ignorant of its ingredients and effects upon blood and nerves. In his world this need does not exist. But the man of thought, understanding the connection between cause and effect, has no confidence in any medicine unless he knows something of its working. To him, this knowledge is a positive need, and to the psychological effect it is even indispensable.

This is likewise true of the Church of Christ; it has not been always the same, neither have its needs. The development of our knowledge has been such that every age has received an insight adapted to satisfy its necessity. More than this: the very fermentation of the age has created the modified need, and has been used of God to give a clearer understanding of the truth.

And yet, whatever the increased clearness and maturity of the knowledge concerning the secret of the Lord during the ages, the secret itself has remained the same. Nothing has been added to it. And the mystery o f the apostolate is, that by the labors of its members the whole secret of the Lord was made known to the Church, under the infallible authorship of the divine Inspirer, the Holy Spirit.

This is the great fact accomplished by the apostolate: the publication of the whole secret of the Lord, by which the revelation in the Old Testament, to John the Baptist and Christ was enlarged and worked out. For to complete a thing means to add that which before <pb n=“167”/> was lacking; after which nothing more can be added. And this is the second point that we emphasize.

Through the apostles the Church received something not possessed by Israel nor imparted by Christ. Christ Himself declares: “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye can not bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth; for He shall not speak from Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak; and He will shew you things to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall receive of Mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John xvi. 12-14,). St. Paul spoke not less clearly, saying: “That the mystery which was kept secret since the world began was now made manifest” (Rom. xvi. 2, 5). And again: “To make men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which from all ages was hid in God.” And again: “The mystery which has been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints” (Col. i. 16). Finally, St. John de. Glares that the apostles testify of what they had looked upon with their eyes, and their hands had handled of the Word of Life, which was with the Father, and which is manifested.

Altho we do not deny that the germ of saving knowledge was given in Paradise, to the Patriarchs, and to Israel; yet the Scripture teaches distinctly that truth was revealed to the Patriarchs, unknown in Paradise; to Israel, of which the Patriarchs were ignorant; and by Jesus, truth that was hidden from Israel. In like manner, truth not declared by Jesus was revealed to the Church by the holy apostolate.

Against this last statement, however, objections are raised: Many unbelieving writers of the present century have frequently asserted that not Jesus, but Paul was the real founder of Christianity; while others have frequently exhorted us to abandon the orthodox theology of St. Paul, and to return to the simple teachings of Jesus; especially to His Sermon on the Mount.

And really, the more the Scripture is studied the more obvious the difference between the Sermon on the Mount and the Epistle to the Romans will appear. Not as tho the two contradict each other, but in this way, that the latter contains elements of truth, new rays of light, not found in the former.

If one objects to the doctrines of the apostles, as does the Groninger School, it is natural to place the gospels above the epistles. Hence the fact that many half-believers still receive the Parables and <pb n=“168”/> the Sermon on the Mount, but reject the doctrine of justification, as taught by St. Paul; while those who wish to break with Christianity entirely are inclined to consider the Pauline epistles as its real exponent, but only to reject them with the entire Pauline Christianity. For the Church of the living God, which receives both, there is in this unholy tendency an exhortation to have an open eye for the difference between the gospels and the epistles, and to acknowledge that our opponents are right when they call it a marked difference.

Yet while our opponents use the difference to attack either the authority of the apostolic doctrine or that of Christendom itself, the Church confesses that there is nothing surprising in this difference. Both are parts of the same doctrine of Jesus, with this distinction, that the first part was revealed directly by Christ, while the other He gave to His Church indirectly by the apostles.

Of course, so long as the apostles are considered as independent persons, teaching a new doctrine on their own authority, our solution does not solve the difficulty. But confessing that they are holy apostles, i.e., organs of the Holy Spirit through whom Jesus Himself taught His people from heaven, then every objection is met, and there is not even a shadow of conflict.

For Jesus simply acted like an earthly father in the training of his children, who teaches them according to their, comprehension; and in case of his death, his task still unfinished, he will leave them written instructions to be opened after his departure. But Jesus died to rise again, and even after His Ascension He continued to be in living contact with His Church through the apostolate. And what we would write before our decease, Jesus caused to be written by His apostles under the special direction of the Holy Spirit. Thus the Scriptures of the New Testament originate—a New Testament in a sense now easily understood.

The correctness of this representation is proven by Christ’s own words, which teach us—

First, that there were things declared to the apostles before His departure, and there were things not declared, because they could not bear them then.

Secondly, that Jesus would declare the latter, also, but by the Holy Spirit.

Thirdly, that the Holy Spirit would reveal these things to them, not apart from Jesus, but by taking them from Christ and declaring them unto them.


<div3 title=“XXXIV. The Need of the New Testament Scripture”>

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The Need of the New Testament Scripture.


“For I testify onto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.”—Rev. xxii. 18.


If the Church after the Ascension of Christ had been destined to live only one lifetime, and had been confined only to the land of the Jews, the holy apostles could have accomplished their task by verbal teaching. But since it was to live at least for eighteen centuries, and to be extended over the whole world, the apostles were compelled to resort to the written communication of the revelation which they had received.

If they had not written, the churches of Africa and Gaul could never have received trustworthy information; and the tradition would have lost its reliable character ages ago. The written revelation has, therefore, been the indispensable means whereby the Church, during its long and ever-extending career, has been preserved from complete degeneration and falsification.

However, from their epistles it does not appear that the apostles clearly understood this. Surely, that the Church would sojourn in this world for eighteen centuries, they did not expect; and almost all their epistles bear a local character, as tho not intended for the Church in general, but only for particular churches. And yet, altho they understood it not, the Lord Jesus knew it; He had thus planned it; hence the epistle written exclusively for the church of Rome was intended and ordained by Him, and without Paul’s knowledge, to edify the Church of all ages.

Hence two things had to be done for the Church of the future:

First, the image of Christ must be received from the lips of the apostles and be committed to writing.

Secondly, the things of which Jesus had said, “Ye can not bear <pb n=“170”/> them now, but the Holy Spirit will declare them unto you,” must be recorded. This is the postulate of the whole matter. The condition of the churches, their long duration in the future, and their world-wide extension demanded it.

And the facts show that the provision was made; but not immediately. So long as the Church was confined to a small circle, and the remembrance of Christ remained fresh and powerful, the apostles’ spoken word was sufficient. The decree of the Synod of Jerusalem was probably the first written document that proceeded from them. But when the churches began to extend across the sea to Corinth and Rome, and northward to Ephesus and Galatia, then Paul began to substitute written for verbal instructions. Gradually this epistolary labor was extended and Paul’s example followed. Perhaps each wrote in turn. And to these epistles were added the narratives of the life, death, and Resurrection of Christ and the Acts of the Apostles. At last the King commanded John from heaven to write in a book the extraordinary revelation given him on Patmos.

The result was a gradually increasing number of apostolic and non-apostolic writings, probably far exceeding that contained in the New Testament. At least Paul’s epistles show that he wrote many more than we now possess. But even if he had not thus informed us, the fact would have been sufficiently well established; for it is improbable that such excellent writers as Paul and John should not have written more than a dozen letters during their long and eventful lives. Even in one year they must have written more than that. The controversy of former days over the assertion that no apostolic writings could have been lost was most foolish, and showed little reckoning with real life.

It is remarkable that from this great mass a small number of writings was gradually separated. A few were collected first, then more were added, and arranged in certain order. It took a long time before there was uniformity and agreement; indeed, some writings were not universally recognized until after three centuries. But in spite of time and controversy, the sifting took place, and the result was, that the Church distinguished in this great mass of literature two distinct parts: on the one hand, this arranged set of twenty-seven books; and on the other, the remaining writings of early origin.

And when the process of sifting and separating was ended, and <pb n=“171”/> the Holy Spirit had borne witness, in the churches that this set of writings constituted a whole, and was, indeed, the Testament of the Lord Jesus to His Church, then the, Church became conscious that it possessed a second collection of sacred books of equal authority with the first collection given to Israel; then it put the Old and the New Testament together, which unitedly form the Holy Scripture, our Bible, the Word of God.

To the question, How did the New Testament Scripture originate? we answer without hesitation, By the Holy Spirit.

How? Did He say to Paul or John: “Sit down and write”?

The gospels and the epistles do not so impress us. It does indeed apply to the Revelation of St. John, but not to the other New Testament Scriptures. They rather impress us as being written without the slightest idea of being intended for the Church of all ages. Their authors impress us as writing to certain churches of their own definite time, and that after a hundred years perhaps not a single fragment of their writings would be in existence. They were indeed conscious of the Holy Spirit’s aid in writing the truth even as they enjoyed it in speaking; but that they were writing parts of the Holy Scripture, they surely knew not.

When St. Paul had finished his Epistle to the Romans, it never occurred to him that in future ages his letter would possess for millions of God’s children an authority equal to, or even higher than that of the prophecies of Isaiah and the Psalms of David. Nor could the first readers of his epistle, in the church of Rome, have imagined that after eighteen centuries the names of their principal men would still be household words in all parts of the Christian world.

But if St. Paul knew it not, surely the Holy Spirit did. A s by education the Lord frequently prepares a maiden for her still unknown, future husband, so did the Holy Spirit prepare Paul, John, and Peter for their work. He directed their lives, circumstances, and conditions; He caused such thoughts, meditations, and even words to arise in their hearts as the writing of the New Testament Scripture required. And while they were writing these portions of the Holy Scripture, that one day would be the treasure of the universal Church in all ages, a fact not understood by them, but by the Holy Spirit, He so directed their thoughts as to guard them against mistakes and lead them into all truth. He foreknew what the complete New Testament Scripture ought to be, and what parts would belong to it. As an architect, by his mechanics, prepared the <pb n=“172”/> various parts of the building, afterward to fit them in their places, so did the Holy Spirit by different workers prepare the different parts of the New Testament, which afterward He united in a whale.

For the Lord, who by His Holy Spirit caused the preparation of these parts, is also King of the Church; He saw these parts scattered abroad; He led men to care for them, and believers to have faith in them. And, finally, by means of the men interested, He united these loose fragments, so that gradually, according to His royal decree, the New Testament originated.

Hence it was not necessary that the New Testament Scripture should contain only apostolic writings. Mark and Luke were no apostles; and the notion that these men must have written under the direction of Paul or. Peter has no proof nor force. What is the benefit of writing under the direction of an apostle? That which gives divine authority to the writings of Luke is not the influence of an apostle, but that he wrote under the absolute inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Believing in the authority of the New Testament; we must acknowledge the authority of the four evangelists to be perfectly equal. As to the contents, Matthew’s gospel may surpass that of Luke, and John’s may excel the gospel of Mark; but their authority is equally unquestionable. The Epistle to the Romans has higher value than that to Philemon; but their authority is the same. As to their persons, John stood above Mark, and Paul above Jude; but since we depend not upon the authority of their persons, but only upon that of the Holy Spirit, these personal differences are of no account.

Hence the question is not whether the New Testament writers were apostles, but whether they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Assuredly, it has pleased the King to connect His testimony with the apostolate; for He said: “Ye are My witnesses.” Hence we know that Luke and Mark obtained their information concerning Christ from the apostles; but our guaranty for the accuracy and reliability of their statements is not the apostolic origin of the same, but the authority of, the Holy Spirit. Hence the apostles are the channels through which the knowledge of these things flows to us from Christ; but whether this knowledge reaches us through their writings or through those of others makes no difference. The vital question is, whether the bearers of the apostolic tradition were infallibly inspired or not.

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Even tho a writing were indorsed by the twelve apostles, this would not be positive proof of its credibility or divine authority. For altho they had the promise, that the Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth, this does not exclude the possibility of their falling into mistakes or even untruths. The promise did not imply absolute infallibility, at all times, but merely when they should act as the witnesses of Jesus. Hence the information that a document comes from the hand of an apostle is insufficient. It requires the additional information that it belongs to the things which the apostle wrote as a witness of Jesus.

If, therefore, the divine authority of any writing does not depend upon its apostolic character, but solely upon the authority of the Holy Spirit, it follows, as a matter of course, that the Holy Spirit—is entirely free to have the apostolic testimony recorded by the apostles themselves, or by any one else; in both cases the authority of these writings is exactly the same. Personal preferences are out of the question. So far as form, content, wealth, and attractiveness are concerned, we may distinguish between John and Mark, Paul and Jude. But when it touches the question of the divine authority before which we must bow, then, we no longer take account of any such distinctions, and we ask only: Is this or that gospel inspired by the Holy Spirit?


<div3 title=“XXXV. The Character of the New Testament Scripture”>

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The Character of the Never Testament Scripture.


“And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”—1 John i. 4.


From the two preceding articles it is evident that the New Testament Scripture was not intended to bear the character of a notarial document. If this had been the Lord’s intention we should have received something entirely different. It would have required a twofold legal evidence:

In the first place, the proof that the events narrated in the New Testament actually occurred as related.

Secondly, that the revelations received by the apostles are correctly communicated.

Both certifications should be furnished by witnesses, e.g., to prove the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand would require:

1. A declaration of a number of persons, stating that they were eye-witnesses of the miracle.

2. An authentic declaration of the magistrates of the surrounding places certifying to their signatures.

3. A declaration of competent persons to prove that these witnesses were known as honest anal trustworthy people, disinterested and competent to judge. Moreover, it would be necessary by proper testimony to prove that„ among the five thousand, there were only seven loaves and two fishes.

4. That the increase of bread took place while Jesus broke it.

In the presence of a number of such documents, each duly authenticated and sealed, persons not too skeptical might find it possible to believe that the event had occurred as narrated in the Gospel.

To prove this one miracle would require a number of documents as voluminous as the whole of St. Matthew. If, it were possible <pb n=“175”/> thus to prove all the events recorded in the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, then the credibility of these narratives would be properly established.

And even this would be far from satisfactory. For the difficulty would remain to prove that the epistles contain correct communications of the revelations received by the apostles. Such proof would be impossible. It would require eye- and ear-witnesses to these revelations; and a number of stenographers to report them. If this had been possible, then, we concede, there would have been, if not mathematical certainty for every expression, yet sufficient ground for accepting the general tenor of the epistles.

But when the apostles wrote them there was no audible voice. And when a voice was heard, it could not be understood, as in the base of Paul’s revelation on the way to Damascus. The same may be said of what occurred on Patmos: St. John actually heard a voice, but the hearing and the understanding of the words which it uttered required a peculiar, spiritual operation that was lacking in the people at the same time on the island.

The fact is, that the revelation of the Holy Spirit granted to the apostles was of such a nature that it could not be perceived by others. Hence the impossibility to grove its genuineness by notarial evidence. He that insists upon it ought to, know that the Church can not furnish it, either for the historical narratives of the gospels, or for the spiritual contents of the epistles.

Hence it is evident that every effort to, prove the truth of the contents of the New Testament by external evidence only condemns itself, and must result in the absolute rejection of the authority of the Holy Scripture. If a judge of the present day should condemn or acquit an accused person on the ground of the insignificant evidence which satisfies many honest people with reference to the Scripture, what a storm of indignation would it raise! The whole list of the so-called evidences as to the credibility of the New Testament writers, that they were competent to judge, willing to testify, disinterested, etc., proves nothing indeed.

Such externals may suffice when it concerns ordinary events, of which one might say: “I believe that it has really happened; I have no reason to doubt it; but if to-morrow it should prove not to be so, I will lose nothing by it.” But how can such superficial methods be applied when it concerns the extraordinary events related by the Holy Scripture, upon the positive certainty of which my own and <pb n=“176”/> my children’s highest interests depend; so that, if they proved to be untrue, e.g., the report of the resurrection of Christ, we should suffer the priceless and irreparable loss of an eternal salvation?

This can not be; it is absolutely unthinkable. And experience proves that the efforts of foolish people to prop their faith by such proofs has always ended with the loss of all faith. Nay, such kind of proof is by its very insignificance either, unworthy to be mentioned with reference to such serious matters, or, if it be worth anything, it can not be furnished, nor ought it to be.

Notarial or mathematical proof neither can nor may be furnished, because the character and nature of the contents of Scripture are inconsistent with or repellent to such demonstration.

No man may demand legal proofs for the fact that the man whom he loves and honors as father is his father indeed; God has made such proof impossible by the very nature of the case. The delicacy which ennobles all family life cuts off the very appearance of such investigation; and, if it were possible, the son, furnished with such proof, would ipso facto have lost his father and mother; they would be his parents no more; and beneath the pile of evidence his child-life would be buried.

The same principle applies to the Holy Scripture. The nature and character of the revelation has been so ordered that it allows no notarial demonstration. The revelation to the apostles is unthinkable, if other persons could have heard, recorded, and published it as well as they. It was an operation of holy energies; not intended to compel doubters to a mere outward faith, but simply to accomplish that for which God had sent it, without caring much for the contradiction of the skeptics. It concerns a work of God which legal or mathematical investigation can not fathom; which manifests itself upon the spiritual domain where certainty obtains not by outward demonstration, but by personal faith of the one in the other.

As faith in father and mother springs not from mathematical demonstration, but from the contact of love, the fellowship of life, and personal trust in each other, even so here. A life of love unfolded itself. The mercies of God came bending down to us in tender compassion. And every man touched by this divine life was affected by its influence, taken up by it, lived in it, felt himself in sympathetic fellowship with it; and, in a way imperceptible and not understood, obtained a certainty, far above any other, that he was in the presence of facts, and that they were divinely revealed.

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And such is the origin of faith; not supported by scientific proof, for then it would be no faith; which has mastered the reader of the Holy Scripture in an entirely different way. The existence of the Scripture is owing to an act of the unfathomable mercies of God; and for this reason man’s acceptance must equally be an act of absolute self-denial and gratitude. It is only the broken and contrite heart, filled with thankfulness to God for His excellent mercy, that can cast itself into the Scripture as into its life-element, and feel that here is found real assurance, casting out all doubt.

Hence we must distinguish a threefold operation of the Holy Spirit with reference to faith in the New Testament Scripture:

First, a divine working giving a revelation to the apostles.

Second, a working called inspiration.

Third, a working, active to-day, creating faith in the Scripture in the heart at first unwilling to believe.

First comes revelation proper.

E g., when St. Paul wrote his treatise on the resurrection (t Cor. xv.), he did not develop that truth for the first time. Probably he had apprehended it previously, and in his sermons and private correspondence expounded it. Hence the revelation antedates the epistle. It belonged to the things of which Jesus had said: “When the Holy Spirit has come He shall guide you into all truth, and He will show you things to come.” And he received that revelation in such a way that he had the positive conviction that thus the Holy Spirit had revealed it to him, and that thus he would see it in the judgment day.

But the epistle was not yet written. This required a second act of the Holy Spirit—that of inspiration.

Without this the knowledge that St. Paul had received a revelation would be useless. What warrant should we have that he had correctly understood and faithfully recorded it? He might have made a mistake in the communication, adding to it or taking from it, thus making it an unreliable report. Hence inspiration was indispensable; for by it the apostle was kept from error while he recorded the revelation previously received.

Lastly, the spiritual bond must be created connecting the soul and the consciousness with the spiritual realities of the infallible Word of God—positive conviction of spiritual things.

The Holy Spirit accomplishes this by the implanting of faith, with the various preparations that ordinarily precede the breaking <pb n=“178”/> forth of the act of believing. The result is inward conviction. This is not wrought by referring us to Josephus or Tacitus, but in a spiritual way. The content of the Scripture is brought to the soul. The conflict between the Word and the soul is felt. The conviction thus wrought causes us to see not that the Scripture must make room for us, but we for the Scripture.

In the discussion of regeneration we shall refer to this point more largely. For the present we shall be satisfied if we have succeeded in showing that the existence of the. New Testament Scripture and our faith in it are not the work of man, but a work in which the Holy Spirit alone must, be honored.


<div2 title=“Tenth Chapter. The Church of Christ”>

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Tenth Chapter.


<div3 title=“XXXVI. The Church of Christ”>


The Church of Christ.


“It is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.”—1 John v. 6.


We now proceed to discuss the work of the Holy Spirit wrought in the Church of Christ.

Altho the Son of God has had a Church in the earth from the beginning, yet the, Scripture distinguishes between its manifestation before and after Christ. As the acorn, planted in the ground, exists, altho it passes through the two periods of germinating and rooting, and of growing upward and forming trunk and branches, even so the Church. At first hidden in the soil of Israel, wrapped in the swaddling-clothes of its national existence, it was only on the day of Pentecost that it was manifested in the world.

Not that the Church was founded only on Pentecost; this would be a denial of the Old Covenant revelation, a falsification of, the idea of Church, and an annihilation of God’s election. We only, say that on that day it became the Church for the world.

And in it the Holy Spirit has wrought a very comprehensive work.

Not its formation, however, for that is the work of the Triune God in the divine decree; or, speaking more, definitely, of Jesus the King when He bought His people with His own blood.

Indeed, the Spirit of God regenerates the elect, whom He does not find in the world, but already in the Church. Every representation as tho the Holy Spirit gathers the elect out of a lost world, and so brings them into the Church, opposes the Scripture’s representation <pb n=“180”/> of the Church as an organism. Christ’s Church is body, and as the members grow out of the body and are not added to it from without, so must the seed of the Church be looked for in the Church and not in the world. The Holy Spirit works that only which is already sanctified in Christ. Hence our form of Baptism reads: “Do you acknowledge that altho our children are conceived and born in sin, and therefore are subject to all miseries, yea to condemnation itself; yet that they are, sanctified in Christ?”

However, since regeneration belongs to His work in the individual, and we are considering now His work in the Church as a whole, as a community, we direct our attention, in the first place, to His work of imparting spiritual gifts, particularly those called “charismata.” Some New Testament passages speak of gifts like those offered to God Matt. v. 23) “If thou bring thy gift to the altar”; or gifts communicated to others (a Cor. viii. 9 and Phil. iv. r7) v and the gift of salvation; but those we do not consider.

A gift offered to God is called in the Greek “doron”; imparted, to others, it is commonly called “charis”; while the gift of grace is usually called “dorea.” Hence these gifts are distinct from those that now occupy our attention. And this distinction appears strongest when we compare the gift of the Holy Spirit with spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit Himself is a gift of grace. But when He imparts spiritual gifts He adorns us with holy ornaments. The first refers to our salvation; the last to our talents.

Referring to our salvation, the Scripture calls it a free and gracious gift, generally “dorea” In the Greek, which, being derided from a root meaning to give, denotes that we were not entitled to it, having neither merited nor bought it, but that it is a given good. St. Paul exclaims: “Thanks unto God for His unspeakable gift,” i.e., of salvation (2 Cor, ix. 15). And again: “Much more the grace of God and the gift of grace, which is by one man Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.” “Much more they which receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ” (Rom. v. 15, 2 7). And lastly: “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Ephes. iv. 7).[18]

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The same expression is used invariably for the imparting of the Holy Spirit: “Ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts ii. 38). And: “Because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts x. 45). Hence it should be carefully noticed that this has nothing to do with the subject under consideration. When St. Paul speaks of faith as the gift of God, he refers to our salvation and God’s saving work in the soul. But the gifts of which we now speak are wholly different. They are not unto salvation, but to the glory of God. They are lent to us as ornaments, that we should show their beauty as talents to gain other talents therewith. They are additional operations of grace; which can not take the place of the proper work of the grace of salvation, nor confirm it, having an entirely different purpose. The work of grace is for our own salvation, joy, and upbuilding; the charismata are given us for others. The first implies that we have received the. Holy Spirit; the latter that He imparts gifts unto us.

Properly speaking, the charismata are given to the, churches, not to individual persons. When a ruler selects and trains men for officers in the army, it is evident that he does this not for their personal enjoyment, honor, and aggrandizement, but for the efficiency and honor of the army. He can search for men with talents for the military service, and train and instruct them; but he can not create such talents. If this were possible, every king would endow his generals with the genius of a Von MoItke, and every admiral would be a De Ruyter.

But Jesus is not thus limited. He is independent; unto Him all power is given in heaven and on earth. He can create talents, and freely impart them to whomsoever He will. Hence, knowing what the Church requires for its protection and upbuilding, He can fully supply all its need. His purpose is not merely to please or enrich individuals, much less to give to some what He withholds from others; bat with the persons thus endowed to adorn and favor the whole Church. We do not put a lamp upon the table to show it a special favor or because it is more excellent than chair or stove; but simply because thus it serves its purpose, and the whole room is lighted. To consider the charismata as intended merely to adorn and benefit the person endowed would be just as absurd as to say: <pb n=“182”/> “I light the fire to warm not the room, but the stove”; and to be jealous of the charismata given to others in the Church would be just as foolish as for the table to be jealous of the stove because it gets all the fire.

The charismata must therefore be considered in an economical sense. The Church is a large household with many wants; an institution to be made efficient by the means of many things. They are to the Church what light and fuel are to the household; not existing for themselves, but for the family, and to be laid aside when the days are long and warm. This applies directly to the charismata, many of which, given to the apostolic Church, are not of service to the Church of the present day.

These charismata have undoubtedly more or less an official character. God has instituted offices in the Church; not in a mechanical way, or depending upon robe or gown; such unspiritual conception is foreign to the Scripture. But as there is division of labor in the army or in the human body, so there is in the Church.

Take, e.g., the body. It must be protected against injury; blood must be carried to muscles and nerves; venous blood must be converted into arterial; the lungs must inhale fresh air, etc. All these activities are laid upon the various members of the body. Eye and ear keep watch; the heart propels the blood; the lungs supply the oxygen, etc. And this cam not be changed arbitrarily. The lungs can not watch; the eye can not supply oxygen; the skin can not propel the blood. Hence this division of labor is neither arbitrary, by mutual consent, nor, a matter of pleasure; but it is divinely ordained, and this ordinance must not be ignored. Hence the eye has the office and gift of watching over the body; the heart of circulating the blood; the lungs of supplying fresh air; etc.

And this applies to the Church in every respect. That great body requires the doing of many and various things for the corn-meal. There is need of guidance, of prophesying, of heroism; me must be exercised, the sick must be healed, etc. And this gr, mutual task the Lord has divided among many members. He’s given to His body, the Church, eyes, ears, hands, and feet; and each of these organic members a peculiar task, calling, and office.

Hence to be called town office simply means to be charged by Jesus, the King, with a definite task. You have done some work. Very well, but how? From impulse, or in obedience to the <pb n=“183”/> charge of your Sender? This makes all the difference. The King may send us in the ordinary or in an extraordinary way. Zacharias was a priest of the course of Abijah; but his son John was the herald of Christ by extraordinary revelation. The Levite served by right of succession; the prophet because he was chosen of God. But this makes no difference; called in the one way or the other, the office remains the same, so long as we have the assurance that King Jesus has called and ordained us.

For this reason our fathers devoutly spoke of an office of all believers. In Christ’s Church there are not merely a few officials and a mass of idle, unworthy subjects, but every believer has a calling, a task, a vital charge. And inasmuch as we are convinced that we perform the task because the King has laid it upon us not for ourselves, nor even from the motive of philanthropy, but to serve the Church, to this extent has our work an official character, altho the world denies us the honor.


<div3 title=“XXXVII. Spiritual Gifts”>

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Spiritual Gifts.


“But desire earnestly the greater gifts. And a still more excellent way show I unto you.”—1 Cor. xii. 31 (R. V.).


The charismata or spiritual gifts are the divinely ordained means and powers whereby the King enables His Church to perform its task on the earth.

The Church has a calling in the world. It is being violently attacked not only by the powers of this world, but much more by the invisible powers of Satan. No rest is allowed. Denying that Christ has conquered, Satan believes that the time left him may yet bring him victories. Hence his restless rage and fury, his incessant attacks upon the ordinances of the Church, his constant endeavor to divide and corrupt it, and his ever-repeated denial of the authority and kingship of Jesus in His Church. Altho he will never succeed entirely, he does succeed to some extent. The history of the Church in every country shows it; it proves that a satisfactory condition of the Church is highly exceptional and of short duration, and that for eight out of ten centuries its state is sad and deplorable, cause for shame and grief on the part of God’s people.

And yet in all this warfare it has a calling to fulfil, an appointed task to accomplish. It may sometimes consist in being sifted like wheat, as in Job’s case, to show that by virtue of Christ’s prayer faith cannot be destroyed in its bosom. But whatever the form of the task, the Church always needs spiritual power to perform it; a power not in itself, but which the King must supply.

Every means afforded by the King for the doing of His work is a charisma, a gift of grace. Hence the internal connection between work, office, and gift.

Wherefore St. Paul says: “To each one, is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal,” i.e., for the general good (pros <pb n=“185”/> ro avpotpov) (1 Cor. xii. 7). And, again, still more clearly: “‘Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel, to the edifying of the Church” (1 Cor. xiv. iz). Hence the petition, “Thy Kingdom come,” which the Heidelberg Catechism interprets: “Rule us so by Thy Word and Spirit that we may submit ourselves more and more to Thee; preserve and increase Thy Church; destroy the works of the devil, and all violence which would exalt itself against Thee, and also all wicked counsels devised against Thy Holy Word, till the full perfection of the Kingdom takes place, wherein Thou shah be all in all.”

It is wrong, therefore, to consider the life of individual believers too much by itself, separating it from the life of the Church. They exist not but in connection with the body, and thus they become partakers of the spiritual gifts. In this sense the Heidelberg Catechism confesses the communion of saints: “First, that all and every one who believes, being members of Christ, are in common partakers of Him and of all His riches and gifts; secondly, that every one must know it to be his duty readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts for the advantage and salvation of other members.” The parable of the talents bas the same aim; for the servant who with his talent failed to benefit others receives a terrible judgment Even the hidden gift must be stirred up, as St. Paul says; not to boast of it or to feed our pride, but because it is the Lord’s and intended for the Church.

St. John writing, “Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things” (r John ii. zo), and “Ye need not that any man teach you” (2 John ii. ay), does not mean to say that every individual believer possesses the full anointing, and in virtue of this knoweth all things. For if this were so, who would not despair of salvation, nor dare say: “I have, the faith”? Moreover, how could the statement, “Ye need not that any man teach you,” be reconciled with the testimony of the same apostle, that the Holy Spirit qualifies teachers appointed by Jesus Himself? Not the individual believer, but the whole Church as a body possesses the full anointing of the Holy One and knows all things. The Church as a body needs not that any come to teach it from without; for it, possesses: all the treasure of wisdom and knowledge, being united with the Head, who is the reflection of the glory of God, in whom dwelleth all wisdom.

And this applies not to the Church of one period, but of all <pb n=“186”/> ages. The Church of to-day is the same as in the, day of the apostles. The life lived then is the life that animates it now. The gains of two centuries ago belong to its treasury, as well as those received to-day. The past is its capital. The wonderful and glorious revelation received by the Church of the first century was given, through it, to the Church of all ages, and is still effectual. And all the spiritual strength and insight, the inward grace, the clearer consciousness, received during the course of the ages are not lost, but form an accumulated treasure, increasing still by the ever-renewed additions of spiritual gifts.

He who realizes and acknowledges this fact feels himself rich, and blessed indeed. For this apostolic view of the matter causes us to be thankful for our brother’s gift, which otherwise we might envy; inasmuch as those gifts do not impoverish, but enrich us. In one city there may be twelve ministers of the Word, all gifted in various directions. According to the natural man, each will be jealous of his brother’s gifts and fear that his talents will excel his own. But not so among the Lord’s own servants. They feel that together they serve one Lord and one flock, and bless God for giving them together what the leading and feeding require. In an army the artillerist is not jealous of the cavalryman, for he knows that the latter is for his protection in the hour of danger.

Moreover, this apostolic standpoint excludes isolation; for it creates the longing for fellowship with distant brethren, even tho they walk in more or less deviating paths. It is impossible, Bible in hand, to limit Christ’s Church to one’s own little community. It is everywhere, in all parts of the world; and whatever its external form, frequently changing, often impure, yet the gifts wherever received increase our riches.

This apostolic standpoint is also against the foolish notion that for eighteen centuries the Church has received no gifts whatever; and hence that, like the early Church, each of us must take his Bible to formulate his own confession. That standpoint makes one so intensely conscious of the communion of spiritual gifts that he can not but appreciate the Church’s treasure accumulated during the centuries. In fact, Christ’s Church has received greatest abundance of spiritual gifts; and to-day we have the disposition not only of the gifts of the churches in our own city, but of all those imparted to the churches elsewhere, and of the historic capital accumulated during eighteen centuries.

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Hence the treasure of every particular church is threefold: First, the charismata in its own circle; secondly, those given to other churches; and lastly, those received since the days of the apostles.


According to their nature these spiritual gifts may be divided into three classes: the official, the extraordinary, and the ordinary.

St. Paul says: “To one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit, and to another faith by the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healing in the one Spirit; and to another workings of miracles, and to another prophecy; and to another discerning of spirits; and to another divers kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues. But all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as He will” (1 Cor. xviii. 8. 11). In like manner the apostle speaks to the Church of Rome: “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation; he that giveth let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness” (Rom. xii. 6-8).

From these passages it is evident that among these charismata St. Paul assigns the first place to the gifts pertaining to the ordinary service of the Church by its ministers, elders, and deacons. For by prophecy St. Paul designates animated preaching, wherein the preacher feels himself cheered and inspired by the Holy Spirit. By “teaching he means ordinary catechizing. “Ministry” refers to the management of the temporalities of the Church. “Giving” has reference to the care for the poor and the miserable. “He that ruleth refers to the officers in charge of the government of the Church. These are the ordinary offices embracing the care of the spiritual and temporal affairs of the Church.

Then follows a different series of charismata, viz., tongues, healing, discernment of spirits, etc. These non-official gifts divide themselves into two classes—those that strengthen the gifts of saving grace, and those distinct from the grace of salvation.

The former are, e.g., faith and love. Without faith no one can be saved. It is therefore the portion of all God’s children, and as such not a “Charisma,” but a “doron.” But while all have faith, God is free to let it manifest itself more strongly in the one than in another. <pb n=“188”/> Of one degree Scripture says: “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shaft be saved”; and of another: “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard-seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove.” The first works internally, the other externally. For this reason St. Paul speaks not only of ministries and gifts, but also of  workings,” which consist in a more vigorous exercise of the grace which the believer as such possesses already. Where the faith of many languishes, the Lord frequently grants extraordinary workings of faith to some, thus to refresh and comfort others. The same is true of love, which also is the portion of all, but not in the same effectual degree. And where the love of many waxes cold, the Lord sometimes quickens it in the few to such extent that others see it and are provoked to holy jealousy.

Besides these ordinary charismata, which are only more energetic manifestations of what every believer possesses in the germ, the Lord has also given to His church extraordinary gifts, working partly upon the spiritual and partly upon the physical domain. Of the latter are the charismata of self-restraint and healing of the sick. Of the former Christ speaks in Matt. xix, 2 2, where he calls such persons “eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom.” St. Paul says that for the sake of the weak brother he will abstain from meat; and again, that he keeps under the body, bringing it into subjection, etc. The charisma of healing refers to the glorious gift of healing the sick: not only those who suffer from nervous diseases and psychological ailments, who are more susceptible to spiritual influences, but also those whose diseases are wholly outside the spiritual realm.

Of an entirely different nature are the extraordinary, purely spiritual charismata, of which St. Paul mentions five: wisdom, knowledge, discernment of spirits, tongues and their interpretation. These may also be divided in two classes, inasmuch as the first three mentioned are also found, altho in a different form, outside of the Kingdom of God; and the last two, which present a wholly peculiar phenomenon, within the Kingdom. Wisdom, knowledge, and discernment of spirits exist even among the heathen, and are much admired by those who reject the Christ. But those natural gifts appear in the Church in a different way. The charisma of wisdom enables one without much investigation, with great tact and clearness, to understand conditions and to offer judicious advice. Knowledge is a charisma whereby the Holy <pb n=“189”/> Spirit enables one to acquire an unusually deep insight into the mysteries of the Kingdom. Discernment of spirits is a charisma whereby one can discern between the genuine spirits raised up of God and those that only pretend to be such. The charisma of tongues we have discussed at length in the twenty-eighth article.

The charismata now existing in the Church are those pertaining to the ministry of the Word: the ordinary charismata of increased exercise of faith and love; those of wisdom; knowledge, and discernment of spirits; that of self-restraint; and lastly, that of healing the sick suffering from nervous and psychological diseases. The others for the present are inactive.


<div2 title=“XXXVIII. The Ministry of the Word”>

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The Ministry of the Word.


“He shall lead you into all truth.”—John xvi. 13.


Let us now consider the second activity of the Holy Spirit in the Church, which we prefer to designate as His care-taking of the Word. In this we distinguish three parts, viz.: the Sealing, the Interpretation, and the Application of the Word.

In the first place, it is the Holy Spirit who seals the Word. This has reference to the “testimonium Spiritus Sancti,” of which our fathers used to speak and by which they understood the operation whereby He creates in the hearts of believers the firm and lasting conviction concerning the divine and absolute authority of the Word of God.

The Word is, if we may so express it, a child of the Holy Spirit. He has brought it forth. We owe it entirely to His peculiar activity. He is its Auctor Primarius, i.e., its Principal Author. And thus it can not seem strange that He should exercise that motherly care over the child of His own travail whereby He enables it to fulfil its destiny. And this destiny is, in the first place, to be believed in by the elect; secondly, to be understood by them; and lastly, to be lived by them; three operations that are successively effected in them by the sealing, the interpretation, and the application of the Word. The sealing of the Word quickens the “faith”; the interpretation imparts the “right understanding”; and the application effects the “living” of it.

We mention the sealing of the Word first, for without faith in its divine authority it can not be God’s Word to us,

The question is: How do we come in real contact and fellowship with the Holy Scripture, which, as a mere external object, lies before us?

We are told that it is the Word of God; but how can this become our own firm conviction? It can never be obtained by investigation. <pb n=“191”/> In fact, it ought to be acknowledged that the more one investigates the Word the more he loses his simple and childlike faith in it. It can not even be said that the doubt created by superficial inquiry will be dispelled by deeper research; for even the profound scrutiny of earnest men has had but one result, viz., the increase of interrogation-points.

We can not in this way examine the contents of the Scripture without destroying it for ourselves. If one wishes to examine the contents of an egg, he must not break it, for then he disturbs it and it is an egg no more; but he should ask them that know about it. In like manner we can learn the truth of the Scripture only by sealing and external communication.

For suppose that the final verdict of science will eventually confirm the divine authority of the Scripture, as we firmly believe it will, what would that avail us in our present spiritual need, since during our short life science will not reach that final verdict? And even if after thirty or forty years we should see it, would that avail my present distress? And if this difficulty could also be removed, we would still ask: Is it not cruel to give spiritual assurance only to Greek and Hebrew scholars? Do not men see and understand, then, that the evidence of the divine authority of the Scripture must come to us in such a manner that the simplest old woman in the poorhouse can see it just as well as I can?

Hence all learned investigation, as the basis for spiritual conviction, is out of the question. He who denies this maltreats souls and introduces an offensive clericalism. For what is the result? The notion that the unscholarly can have no assurance of themselves; that is what ministers are for; they have studied the matter; they ought to know, and the simple folk must believe upon their authority.

The absurdity of this notion is obvious. In the first place, the learned gentlemen are frequently the greatest doubters. Secondly, one minister almost always contradicts what another has laid down as the truth. And, thirdly, the congregation, treated as a minor, is delivered again into the power of men; a yoke is laid upon it which our fathers could not bear; and the mistake is made of trying to prove the testimony of God by that of men.

If we must bear a yoke, then give us that of Rome ten times rather than that of the scholars; for altho Rome puts men between us and the Scripture, they speak at least with one mouth. They all repeat what the Pope has settled for them, and his authority rests <pb n=“192”/> not upon his scholarship, but upon his pretended spiritual illumination. Hence the Roman Catholic priests do not contradict one, another. Neither is their teaching the fancy of a defective learning, but the result of a mental development that Rome attained in its most excellent men, and that in connection with the spiritual labor of many centuries.

Of all clericalism, that of the intellectual stamp is the most unbearable; for one is always silenced with the remark, “You don’t know Greek,” or, “You don’t read Hebrew”; while the child of God feels irresistibly that in the matters that concern eternity, Greek and Hebrew can not have the last word. And this apart from the fact that to a number of these scholars Professor Cobet might say in turn: “Dear sir, do you still know Greek yourself?” Of the shallow knowledge of Hebrew in the largest number of cases, it is better not to speak.

No, in that way we never get there. To make the divine authority of the Holy Scripture real to us, we need not a human, but a divine testimony, equally convincing to the simplest and to the most learned—a testimony that must not be cast as pearls before swine, but be limited to those who can gather from it noblest fruit viz., to them that are born again.

And this testimony is not derived from the Pope and his priests, nor from the theological faculty with its ministers, but comes with the sealing from the Holy Spirit alone. Hence it is a divine testimony, and as such stops all contradiction and silences all doubt. It is a testimony the same to all, belonging to the peasant in the field and to the theologian in his study. Finally, it is a testimony which they alone receive who hate open eyes, so that they can see spiritually.

However, this testimony does not work by magic. It does not cause the confused mind of unbelief suddenly to cry out: “Surely the Scripture is the Word of God!” If this were the case, the way of enthusiasts would be open, and our salvation would depend again upon a pretended spiritual insight. No, the testimony of the Holy Spirit works in an entirely different way. He begins to bring us into contact with the Word, either by our own reading or by the communication of others. Then He shows us the picture of the sinner according to the Scripture, and the salvation which mercifully saved him; and lastly, He makes us hear the song of praise upon his lips. And after we have seen this objectively, with the <pb n=“193”/> eye of the understanding, He then so works upon our feeling that we begin to see ourselves in that signer, and to feel that the truth of the Scripture directly concerns us. Finally. He takes hold of the will, causing the very power seen in the Scripture to work in us. And when thus the whole man, mind, heart, and will, has, experienced the power of the Word, then He adds to this the comprehensive operation of assurance, whereby the Holy Scripture in diving splendor commences to scintillate before our eyes.

Our experience is like that of a person who, from his brightly lighted room, looks out in the dusk. At first, owing to the brightness within, he sees nothing. But blowing out his light and looking out once more, he gradually distinguishes forms and figures, and after a while he enjoys the soft twilight. Let us apply this to the Word of God. So long as the light of our own insight flashes through the soul, we, looking through the window of eternity, fail to perceive anything. It is all wrapped in cloudy darkness. But when at last we prevail upon ourselves to extinguish that light, and look out again, then we see a divine world gradually coming up out of the gloom, and, to our surprise, where at first we saw nothing we now see a glorious realm bathed in divine light.

And thus God’s elect obtain a firm assurance concerning the Word of God that nothing can shake, of which no learning can rob them. They stand firm as a wall. They are founded upon a rock. The winds may howl and the floods descend, but they fear not. They stay upon their indestructible faith, not only as a result of the Holy Spirit’s first operation, but because He supports the conviction continually. Jesus said, “He abideth with you forever”; and this has primary reference to this testimony concerning the Word of God. In the believing heart He testifies continually: “Fear not, the Scripture is the Word of your God.”


However, this is not all of the Holy Spirit’s work in regard to the Word. It must also be interpreted.

And He, the Inspirer, alone can give the right interpretation. If among men each is the best interpreter of his own word, how much more here where no man shall ever have the boldness to say that he understands the Spirit’s full and proper meaning as well as He Himself, if not better? Even if the authors of both Testaments should rise from the dead and tell us the meaning of their respective Scriptures—even that would not be the full and deep interpretation. <pb n=“194”/> For they wrote things the comprehensive meaning of which they did not understand. E g., when Moses wrote about the serpent’s seed, it is obvious that he did not begin to see all that is contained in the “bruising of his heel.”

Hence the Holy Spirit alone can interpret the Scripture. And, how? After the manner of Rome, by means of an official translation as the Vulgate; an official interpretation of every word and sentence; and an official condemnation of every other explanation?, By no means. This would be very easy, but also very unspiritual. Death would cleave to it. The full, boundless ocean of truth would be confined within the narrow limits of a formula. And the refreshing fragrance of life, which always meets us from the sacred page, would at once be lost.

Surely the churches may not be given over to an arbitrary, irresponsible translation of the Word; and we greatly appreciate the mutual care of the churches in providing a correct translation in the vernacular. We consider it even highly desirable that, under the seal of their approval, the churches should publish expository marginal readings. But neither the one nor the other should ever replace the Scripture itself. Scriptural research must ever be free. And when there is spiritual courage, then let the churches revise their translation and see whether their expository readings need modification. Not, however, to unsettle things every three years, but that in every period of vigorous, animated, spiritual life the light of the Holy Spirit may be shed in larger measure upon the things that always need more light.

Hence the work of the Holy Spirit with reference to interpretation is indirect, and the means employed are: (r) scientific study; (2) the ministry of the Word; and (3) the spiritual experience of the Church. And it is by the cooperation of these three factors that, in the course of ages, the Holy Spirit indicates which interpretation deviates from the truth, and which is the correct understanding of the Word.


This interpretation is followed by the application.

The Holy Scripture is a wonderful mystery, which is intended to meet the needs and conflicts of every age, nation, and saint. When preparing it He foreknew those ages, nations, and saints, and with an eye to their necessities He so planned and arranged it as it is now offered to us. And only then will the Holy Scripture attain <pb n=“195”/> the end in view, when to every age, nation, church, and individual it shall be applied in such a way that every saint shall receive at last whatever portion was reserved for him in the Scripture. Hence this work of application belongs to the Holy Spirit alone, for only He knows the relation which the Scripture must sustain at last to every one of God’s elect.

As to the manner in which the work is performed, it is either direct or indirect.

The indirect application comes most generally through the ministry, which attains its highest end when standing before his congregation the minister can say: “This is the message of the Word which at this time the Holy Spirit intends for you. An awful claim, indeed, and only attainable when one lives as deeply in the Word as in the Church. Besides this there is also an application of the Word brought about by the spoken or written word of a brother, which sometimes is as effectual as a long sermon. The quiet perusal of some exposition of the truth has sometimes stirred the soul more effectually than a service in the house of prayer.

The direct application of the Word the Holy Spirit effects by the reading of the Scripture or by remembered passages. Then He brings to remembrance words deeply affecting us by their singular power. And, altho the world smiles and even brethren profess ignorance concerning it, it is our conviction that the special application of that moment was for us and not for them, and that in out inward souls the Holy Spirit performed a work peculiar to Himself.


<div3 title=“XXXIX. The Government of the Church”>

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The Government of the Church.


“No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”—1 Cor. xii. 3.


The last work of the Holy Spirit in the Church has reference to government.

The Church is a divine institution. It is the body of Christ. even tho manifesting itself in a most defective way; for as the man whose speech is affected by a stroke of paralysis is the same friendly person as before, in spite of the defect, so is the Church, whose speech is impaired, still the same holy body of Christ. The visible and invisible Church are one.

We have written elsewhere: “The Church of Christ on earth is at once visible and invisible. Even as a man is at once a perceptible and imperceptible being without being therefore two beings, so does the distinction between the Church visible and invisible in no wise impair its unity. It is one and the same Church, which according to its spiritual being is hidden in the spiritual world, manifest only to the spiritual eye, and which according to its visible form manifests itself externally to believers and the world.

“According to its spiritual and invisible being the Church is one in all the earth, one also with the Church in heaven. In like manner it is also a holy Church, not only because it is skilfully wrought of God, dependent entirely upon His divine influences and workings, but also because the spiritual defilement and indwelling sin of believers belong not to it, but war against it. According to its visible form, however, it manifests itself only in fragments. Hence it is local, i.e., widely distributed; and the national churches originate because these local churches form such connection as their own character and their national relations demand. More extensive combinations of churches can only be temporal or exceedingly loose and flexible. And these churches, as manifestations of the <pb n=“197”/> invisible church, are not one, neither are they holy; for they partake of the imperfections of all earthly life, and are constantly defiled by the power of sin which internally and externally undermines their well-being.”

Hence the subject may not be presented as tho the spiritual, invisible, and mystical Church were the object of Christ’s care and government, while the affairs and oversight of the visible Church are left to the pleasure of men. This is in direct opposition to the Word of God. There is not one visible Church and another invisible; but one Church, invisible in the spiritual, and visible in the material world. And as God cares both for body and soul, so does Christ govern the external affairs of the Church just as certainly as with His grace He nourishes it internally.

Christ is the Lord; Lord not only of the soul, but before He can be that He must be Lord of the Church as a whole.

It should be noticed that the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments belong not to the internal economy of the Church, but to the external; and that church government serves almost exclusively to keep the preaching pure and the sacraments from being profaned. Hence it is not expedient to say:, “If the Word of God be only preached in its purity and the sacraments rightly administered, the church order is of minor importance”; eliminate these two from the church order and very little remains of it.

The question is, therefore, whether these means of grace are to be arranged according to our pleasure, or according to the will of Jesus. Does He allow us to trifle with them according to our own notions, or does He rebuke and abhor all self-willed religion? If the last, then also He must from heaven direct, govern, and care for His Church.

However, He does not compel us in this matter; He has left us the awful liberty of acting against His Word and of substituting our form of government for His own. And that is the very thing which misguided Christendom has done again and again. Through unbelief, not seeing the King, it has frequently ignored, forgotten; deposed Him; it has established its own self-willed régime in His Church, until at last the very remembrance of the lawful Sovereign has been lost.

The individual church, still mindful of the kingship of Jesus, professes to bow unconditionally to His kingly Word as contained in the Scripture. Therefore, we say that in the state church of the <pb n=“198”/> Netherlands, whose church order not only lacks such profession, but lays the supreme legislative power exclusively upon men, Christ’s Kingship is mocked; that a pretender has usurped His place, who must be removed as surely as it is written: “Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion.”

Hence it must be maintained firmly and fearlessly that Jesus is not only the King of souls, but also King in His Church; whose absolute prerogative it is to be the Lawgiver in His Church; and that the power which contests that right most be opposed for conscience’ sake.

To the question, why the Church is so apt to forget the Kingship of Christ, so that many a godly minister has not the slightest feeling for it, often saying: “Surely Jesus is King in the realm of truth, but what does He care for the external church? I, at least, a spiritual man, never attend the meetings of the official board”; we answer: “If Jesus had an earthly throne and thence reigned personally over His Church, all men would bow before Him; but being enthroned in heaven at the right hand of the Father, the King is forgotten; out of sight, out of mind. Hence ignorance concerning the work of the Holy Spirit is the cause. Since Jesus governs His Church not directly, but by His Word and Spirit, there is no respect for the majesty of His sovereign government.

The spiritual eye of the believer must therefore be reopened for the work of the Holy Spirit in the churches. The unspiritual man has no eye for it. A consistory, classic, or synod is to him merely a body of men convened to transact business according to their own light, the same as a meeting of the directors of a board of trade, or some other secular organization. One is a shareholder and a committeeman, and as such assists in the administration of affairs to the best of his ability. But to the child of God, with an, eye for the work of the Holy Spirit, these church assemblies assume an entirely different aspect. He acknowledges that this consistory is no consistory, this classic no classic, this synod only apparently so, except the Holy Spirit preside and decide matters together with the members.

The opening prayer of consistory, classic, or synod is therefore not the same as that of the Y. M. C. A., or of a missionary convention, simply a prayer for light and help, but an entirely different thing. It is the petition that the Holy Spirit stand in the midst of the assembly. For without Him no ecclesiastical meeting is complete. <pb n=“199”/> It can not be held except He be present. Hence in the liturgical prayer at the opening of consistory, there is first a petition for the Holy Spirit’s presence and leadership, secondly, the confession that the members can do nothing without His presence; and thirdly, a pleading of the promises to office-bearers.

The prayer reads: “Since we are at present assembled in Thy Holy Name, after the example of the apostolic churches, to consult, as our office requires, about those things which may come before, us, for the welfare and edification of Thy churches, for which we acknowledge ourselves unfit and incapable, as we are by nature unable of ourselves to think any good, much less to put it into practise, therefore we beseech Thee, O Faithful God and Father, that Thou wilt be pleased to be present with Thy Spirit according to Thy promise, in the midst of our present assembly, to guide us in all truth.”

In the prayer at the close of the consistory there follows the express giving of thanks that the Holy Spirit was present in the meeting: “Moreover, we thank Thee that Thou now hast been present with Thy Holy Spirit in the midst of our assembly, directing our determinations according to Thy will, uniting our hearts in mutual peace and concord. We beseech Thee, O faithful God and Father, that Thou wilt graciously be pleased to bless our intended labor and effectually to execute Thy begun work; always gathering unto Thyself a true church and preserving the same in the pure doctrine and in the right use of Thy holy sacraments, and in a diligent exercise of discipline.”

Hence church government signifies:

First, that King Jesus institutes the offices and appoints the incumbents.

Secondly, that the churches submit themselves unconditionally to the fundamental law of His Word.

Thirdly, that the Holy Spirit come in the assembly to direct the deliberations; as Walxus expressed it: “That the Holy Spirit personally may stand behind the president to preside in every meeting.” And this saying is so rich in meaning that we would seriously ask, whether it is not yet plain that a mere change of officers avails not, so long as the organization itself is not agreeable to the Word of God. The question is not whether better men come in power, but whether the Holy Spirit preside in the assembly; which He can not do except the Word of God be the only rule and authority.

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<div1 title=“Volume Two. The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Individual”>

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The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Individual


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<div2 title=“First Chapter. Introduction”>

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First Chapter.



<div3 title=“I. The Man to be Wrought upon”>


The Man to be Wrought upon.


“Behold, I will pour out My Spirit unto you, I will make known My words unto you.”—Prov. i. 23.


The discussion so far has been confined to the Holy Spirit’s work in the Church as a whole. We now consider His work in individual persons.

There is a distinction between the Church as a whole and its individual members. There is a Body of Christ, and there are members which constitute a part of that Body. And the character of the Holy Spirit’s work in the one is necessarily different from that in the other.

The Church, born of the divine pleasure, is complete in the eternal counsel, and sovereign choice has prepared all its course.

The same God who has numbered the hairs of our head has also numbered the members of Christ’s Body. As every natural birth is foreordained, so is every Christian birth in the Church divinely predestinated.

The origin and awakening of eternal life are from above; not from the creature, but from the Creator, and are rooted in His free and sovereign choice. And it remains not merely a choice, but. is followed by a divine act equally decisive that enforces and realizes that choice.

That is God’s spiritual omnipotence. He is not as a man who experiments, but He is God who, never forsaking the work of His hands, is persistent and irresistible in the doing of all His pleasure. Hence His counsel becomes history; and the Church, whose form is outlined <pb n=“204”> in that counsel, must in the course of ages be born, increase, and perfect itself according to that counsel; and since that counsel is indestructible the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church. This is the ground of the security and consolation of the saints. They have no other ground of trust. From the fact that God is God, and that therefore His pleasure shall stand, they draw the sure conviction with which they prophesy against all that is visible and phenomenal.

In the work of grace, there is no trace of chance or fatalism; God has determined not only the final issue, leaving the way by which it is to be attained undecided, but in His counsel He has prepared every means to realize His choice. And in that counsel. ways disclose themselves which human eye can not trace nor fathom. The divine omnipotence adapts itself to the nature of the creature. It causes the cedars of Lebanon to grow, and the bulls of Bashan to increase; but it feeds and strengthens each according to its nature The cedar eats no grass, and the ox does not burrow in the ground for food.

The divine ordinance requires that by its roots the tree shall absorb the juices from the ground, and that by the mouth the ox shall take his food and convert it into blood. And He honors His own ordinance by providing food in the soil for the one, and grass in the field for the other.

The same principle prevails in the Kingdom of Grace. To man as a subject of that Kingdom, and of the moral world belonging to it, God has given another organism than to the ox, cedar, wind, or stream. The movements of the latter are purely mechanical; from the steep mountain the stream must fall. In a different way He acts upon ox and tree; and in still another way upon man. In the human body chemical forces work mechanically, and other forces like those in the ox and cedar. And besides these there are in man moral forces which God operates also according to their nature.

Upon this ground our fathers rejected as unworthy of God the fanatical view that in the work of grace man is a stock or block; not because it attributes something to man, but because it represents God as denying His own work and ordinance. Creating an ox or a tree or stone each different from the other, giving each a nature of its own, it follows that He can not violate this, but must adapt Himself to it. Hence all His spiritual operations are subject to the divinely ordained dispositions in man as a spiritual being; <pb n=“205”/> and this feature makes the work of grace exceedingly beautiful, glorious, and adorable.

For let us not deceive ourselves and speak any longer of a glorious work of grace if the omnipotent God treats man mechanically, as a stock or block. Then there is no mystery for angels to look into, but an immediate work of omnipotence breaking down and creating anew. To admire the work of grace we should take it as it is revealed, i.e., as a complicated, unsearchable work by which, violating nothing, God adapts Himself to the delicate and manifold needs of man’s spiritual being; and reveals His divine omnipotence in the victory over the endless and gigantic obstacles which human nature puts in His way.

Even the heart of God thirsts after love. His entire counsel may be reduced to one thought, viz., that in the end of the ages He may have a Church which shall understand His love and return it. But love can not be ordered, neither can it be forced in an unspiritual way. It can not be poured out in a man’s heart mechanically. To be warm, refreshing, and satisfying, love must be quickened, cultivated, and cherished. Hence God does not instil an ounce of love into His people’s hearts, in consequence of which they love Him, but He exhibits love to such an extent that He, who was from the beginning with God and was God, in unfathomable love dies for men on the cross.

This would have been superfluous if man were a stock or block. Then God would only have had to create love in his heart, and men would have loved Him from sheer necessity, as a stove emits heat when the fire is lighted. But the love so warmly portrayed ir1 Scripture is not superfluous, when God deals with spiritual creatures spiritually. Then the cross of Christ is a manifestation of divine love far surpassing all human conceptions; hence exercising such irresistible power upon all God’s elect.

And that which is preeminently true and apparent in love is equally true of every part of the work of grace—in all its stages. In it God never denies Himself, nor the ordinance and plan after which man was created. Hence it is its glory that, while on the one hand God granted man the strongest means of resistance, on the other He overcame that resistance in a divine and kingly why by the omnipotence of redeeming grace.

When the apostle testifies, “We pray you in Christ’s stead, as tho God did beseech you by us, be ye reconciled to God,” he reveals <pb n=“206”/> such a depth of the mystery of love that finally the relations are literally reversed, and the holy God beseeches His rebellious creature, who instead should, cry to Him for mercy.

Tradition speaks of the fascination of mysterious beings exerted upon travelers and mariners so irresistibly that the latter cast themselves willingly and yet against their will into destruction. In love’s revelation this tradition in a reversed and holy manner has become a reality. Here also is an almighty power of fascination, in the end irresistible to the condemned sinner; but allowing himself to be drawn unwillingly and yet willingly, eternal pity draws him not into destruction, but out of it.

However, the wonderful workings of love can scarcely be analyzed. Lovers never know who has attracted and who has been attracted, nor how in the struggle of the affections love performed its drawings. Love’s being is too mysterious to reveal its various workings and how they succeed one another. And this applies in far greater measure to the love of God. Every saint knows by experience that at last it became irresistible, and prevailed. But how the victory was achieved can not be told. This divine work comes to us from such infinite heights and depths, it affects us so mysteriously, and in the beginning there was such utter lack of spiritual light that one can scarcely more than stammer of these things. Who comprehends the mystery of the natural birth? Who had knowledge when he was being curiously embroidered in the lowest parts of the earth? And if this took place without our consciousness, how can we understand our spiritual birth? Indeed, subjectively, i.e., depending upon our own experience, we know absolutely nothing of it; and all that ever was or can be said about it is taken exclusively from Scripture. It has pleased the Lord to lift only a corner of the veil covering this mystery—no more than the Holy Spirit deemed necessary for the support of our faith, for the glory of God and the benefit of others in the hour of their spiritual birth.

Wherefore in this series of articles we will try only to systematize and explain what God has revealed for the spiritual direction of His children.

Nothing is further from our minds than to exercise ourselves in things too high for us, or to penetrate into mysteries hid from our view. Where Scripture stops we shall stop; to the difficulties left unexplained, we shall not add what must be only the result of human <pb n=“207”/> folly. But where Scripture proclaims unmistakably Jehovah’s sovereign power in the work of grace, there neither the criticism nor the mockery of men will prevent us from demanding absolute submission to the divine sovereignty and giving glory to His Name.


<div3 title=“II. The Work of Grace a Unit.”>

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The Work of Grace a Unit.


“Because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us.”—Rom. v. 5.


The final end of all God’s ways is that He may tie all in all. He can not cease from working until He has entered the souls of individual men. He thirsts after the creature’s love. In man’s love for God He desires to see the virtues of His own love glorified. And love must spring from man’s personal being, which has its seat in the heart.

The work of grace exhibited in the eternal counsel can never be sufficiently praised. From Paradise to Patmos, revealed to prophets and apostles, it is transcendently rich and glorious. Prepared in Immanuel, who ascended on high, who has received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them, it exceeds the praise of men and angels. And yet its highest glory and majesty appear only when, overcoming the rebellious, operating in the soul, it causes its light so to shine that men, seeing it, glorify the Father which is in heaven.

Hence the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the crowning event of all the great events of salvation, because it reveals subjectively, i.e. in individual persons, the grace revealed hitherto objectively.

Assuredly in the days of the Old Covenant saving grace wrought in individuals, but it always bore a preliminary and special character. Old-Covenant believers “received not the promise, that they without us should not be made perfect.” And the dispensation of personal salvation, in its normal character, began only when, the work of reconciliation being finished, Immanuel risen, the other Comforter had come inwardly to enrich the members of the Body of Christ.

Hence the purpose of the Triune God steadily urges to this <pb n=“209”/> glorious consummation. The divine compassion can not cease from working so long as the work of saving the individual soul is not begun. In all the preparatory work God aims persistently at His elect; not only after the fall, but even before creation, His wisdom rejoiced in His earthly world, and “His delights were with the sons of men.” From eternity He foreknows all in whom His glorious light shall once be kindled. They are no strangers to Him, discovered only after the lapse of ages, upon examination either to be passed by as unprofitable, or to be wrought upon as proper and useful subjects, according to their respective merits; no, our faithful Covenant God never stands as a stranger before any of His creatures. He created them all and ordained how they should be created; they are not first created, then ordained; but ordained, then created. Even then the creature is not independent of the Lord, but before there is a word upon his tongue He knoweth it altogether; not by information of what already existed, but by divine knowledge of what was to come. Even the relations of cause and effect connecting the! various parts of his life lie naked and open before Him; nothing is hid from Him; and much more intimately than man knows himself, God knows him.

The waters of salvation descending from the mountain-tops of God’s holiness do not flow toward unknown fields, but their channel is prepared, and leaping over the mountain-sides they greet the acres below which they are to water.

Hence, altho clearness demands divisions and subdivisions in the work of grace, yet they do not actually exist; the work of grace is a unit, it is one eternal, uninterrupted act, proceeding from the womb of eternity, unceasingly moving toward the consummation of the glory of the children of God which shall be revealed in the great and notable Day of the Lord. For instance, altho in the moment of regeneration God calleth the things that are not, with all that they contain as in a germ, yet it should not be represented as tho He had neglected that soul for twenty or thirty years. For even this apparent neglect. is a divine work. Constrained by His love He would rather have turned to His chosen but lost creature immediately, to seek and save it. But He refrained Himself, if we may so express it; for this very neglect, this hiding of His countenance works together as a means of grace, in the hour of love, to make grace efficient in that soul.

Hence the salvation of a soul in its personal being is an eternal, <pb n=“210”/> uninterrupted, continuous act, whose starting-point lies in the decree whose end is in the glorification before the throne. It contains nothing formal or mechanical. There is not a period of eighteen centuries first, during which God is occupied with the preparation of objective grace, without a single gracious work in individual souls. Neither is there salvation prepared only for possible souls whose salvation was still uncertain. Nay, the love of God never works toward the unknown. He is perfect, and His way is perfect; hence His love, always bears the high and holy mark of proceeding from heart to heart, from person to person, knowing and reading one with perfect knowledge. During all the day while Cain was being judged; while Noah and his eight were safe in the ark; while Abraham was called, and Moses talked with Jehovah face to face; while the seers were prophesying, the Baptist appeared in public, Jesus ascended Calvary, and St. John was seeing visions—throughout all those ages God foreknew us (if we are His own), the pressure of His love went out steadily toward us, He called us before we were, in order that we might come into being,; and when we had come into being, He led us all our days. Even when we rebelled against Him and He turned. His face from us, even then He led us as our true and faithful Shepherd. Surely all things must work together for good to them that love God, even the lives and characters of their ancestor—for they are the called according to His purpose.

Instead of being cold and formal, it is rather one act of love, energizing, pouring forth, shedding itself abroad. From its fountainhead on the highest mountains, traversing many highlands before it can reach you, divine love flows on, ever restless, until it pours itself forth into your soul. Hence the apostle boasts that at last love had attained this blessed end in his person and in Rome’s beloved church. “Now we have peace with God, because the love of God (moving toward us from eternity) at last has reached us, and is now shed abroad in our heart.”

And this does not mean that now we possess a pure love of our own, but that the love of God for His elect, having descended from on high and overcome every obstacle, has poured itself into the deep bed of our regenerated hearts. And to this He adds the grace of making the soul understand, drink, and taste of that love. And when in contrition and shamefacedness the soul loses itself in love’s delights and in the adorations of its eternal compassion, then <pb n=“211”> His glory shines with greater brightness, and His rejoicings with the children of men are complete.


However, while the Triune God anticipates from before the foundation of the world the ingathering and glorification of the saints, Scripture clearly reveals that this ingathering and glorification is the adorable work of the Holy Spirit. God’s love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us.

The Scripture gives this work of the Spirit a prominent place; not to the exclusion of the bather and the Son, yet so that this personal work is always effected by the Holy Spirit. And the Scripture puts this so strongly that the Catechism speaks, not incorrectly, of three things in our most holy faith: of God the Father and our Creation, of God the Son and our Redemption, and then only of God the Holy Ghost and our Sanctification. And this is not surprising. For—

First, as we have seen already, in the economy of the Triune God it is the Holy Spirit who comes in closest contact with the creature and fills him. Hence it is His peculiar work to enter man’s heart, and in its recesses to proclaim God’s grace until he believes.

Second, He brings every work of the Triune God to its consummation. Hence He perfects the work of objective grace by the saving of souls, thus realizing its final purpose.

Third, He quickens life. He hovers over the waters of chaos, and breathes into man the breath of life., In perfect harmony with this, the sinner dead in trespasses and sin can not live except he be quickened by the Spirit of all quickening, whom the Church has always invoked, saying: “Veni, Creator Spiritus.”

Fourth, He takes the things of Christ and glorifies Him. The Son does not distribute His treasures, but the Holy Spirit. And since the entire salvation of the redeemed consists in the fact that their dead and withered hearts are joined to Christ, the Source of salvation, we must praise the Holy Spirit for doing it.

Hence in the constraining desire of divine love for the individual salvation of chosen but lost creatures, the work of the Holy Spirit evidently occupies the most conspicuous place. Our knowledge of God is not complete except we know Him as the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. But as “no man cometh to the Father but by Me,” and “no man knoweth the Father save the <pb n=“212”/> Son, and he to whomsoever the $on will reveal Him,” so no mars can come to the Son but by the Holy Spirit, and no man can know the Son if the Holy Spirit does not reveal Him unto him.

But this does not imply any separation, even in thought, between the Persons of the Godhead. This would destroy the confession of the Trinity, substituting for it the false confession of tri-theism. Nay, it is eternally the same God subsisting in three Persons. The truth of our confession shines in the very acknowledgment of the unity in the Trinity. The Father is never without the Son, nor the Son without the Father. And the Holy Spirit pan never come to us nor work in us except the Father and the Son cooperate with Him.


<div3 title=“III. Analysis Necessary”>

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Analysis Necessary.


“Let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation.”—Heb. vi. I.


To systematize the work of the Holy Spirit in individuals, we must first consider their spiritual condition before conversion.

Misunderstanding concerning this leads to error and confusion. It causes the various operations of the Holy Spirit to be confounded, so that the same terms are used to designate different things. And this confuses one’s own thought, and leads others astray. This is most seriously apparent in ministers who discuss this subject in general terms, artlessly avoid definiteness, and consequently reiterate the same platitudes.

Such preaching makes little or no impression; its monotone is wearisome; it accustoms the ear to repetitions; it lacks stimulus for the inward ear. And the mind, which can not remain inactive with impunity, seeks relief in its own way, often in unbelief, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. The words “heart,” “mind,” “soul,” “Conscience.” “Inward man” are used indiscriminately. There are frequent calls for conversion, regeneration, renewing of life, justification, sanctification, and redemption; while the ear has not been accustomed to understand in each of these a special thing and a peculiar revelation of the work of the Holy Spirit. And in the end this chaotic preaching makes it impossible to discuss divine things intelligently, since one initiated and more thoroughly instructed can not be understood.

We solemnly protest especially against the pious appearance that conceals the inward hollowness of this preaching by saying! “My simple Gospel has no room for these hair-splitting distinctions; they savor of the dry scholasticism with which quibbling minds terrify God’s dear children, and bring them under the bondage of the letter. Nay, the Gospel of my Lord must remain to me fall of life and spirit: therefore spare me these subtleties.”

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And no doubt there is some truth in this. By a dry analysis of soul-refreshing truth, abstract minds often rob simple souls of much comfort and joy. They discuss spiritual things in the mongrel terms of Anglicized Latin, as tho souls could have no part with Christ unless they be experts in the use of these bastard words. Such terrifying of the weak betrays pride and self-exaltation. And a very foolish pride it is, for the boasted knowledge is readily acquired by mere effort of the memory. Such externalizing of the Christian faith is offensive. It substitutes glibness of tongue for genuine piety, and mental justification for that of faith. Thus piety of the heart moves to the head, and instead of the Lord Jesus Christ, Aristotle, the master teacher of dialectics, becomes the savior of souls.

To plead for such a caricature is far from our purpose. We believe that our salvation depends solely upon God’s work in us, and not upon our testimony; and the little child with stammering lips, but wrought upon by the Holy Spirit, will precede these vain scribes into the Kingdom of Heaven. Let no one dare impose the yoke of his own thoughts upon others. Christ’s yoke alone fits the souls of men.


And yet the Gospel does not condone shallowness, neither does it approve mere twaddle.

Of course there is a difference. We do not require our children to know the names of all the nerves and muscles of the human body, of the diseases to which it is subject, and of the contents of the pharmacopoeia. It would be a burden to the little fellows, who are happiest so long as they are unconscious of the curious organism they carry with them. But the physician who is not quite certain as to the locality of these vital organs; who, careless of details, is satisfied with the generalities of his profession; who, unable to diagnose the case correctly, fails to administer the proper remedies, is promptly dismissed and a more discriminating one is called in. And to some extent the same is required of all intelligent people. Well-informed men should not be ignorant of the vital organs of the human body and their principal functions; mothers and nurses should be still better informed.

The same applies to the life of the Church. The least gifted among the brethren can not understand the distinctions of the spiritual life; unable to bear strong meat, they should be fed with milk alone. Neither should young children be wearied and blunted <pb n=“215”/> with phrases far above their comprehension. Both should be taught according to “the tenor of their way.” A child talking on religious matters in discriminating terms unpleasantly affects the spiritual feeling. But not so the spiritual physician, i.e., the minister of the Word. If the unskilled veterinarian be dismissed, how much more they who, pretending to treat and cure souls, betray their own ignorance of the conditions and activities of the spiritual life. Wherefore we insist that every minister of the Word be a specialist in this spiritual anatomy and physiology; familiar with the various forms of spiritual disease, and always able out of Christ’s fulness to select the spiritual remedies required.

And the same knowledge we claim, if not in the same degree, of every intelligent man or woman. The physician or lawyer who smiles at our ignorance of the first principles of his profession ought to be equally ashamed when betraying his own lamentable ignorance of the condition of his soul. In the spiritual life each talent should bear interest. Every man ought to be symmetrically developed. According to his range of vision, strength of powers, and depth of penetration, he should be able to distinguish spiritual things and his own soul’s need. And that this knowledge is largely found only among our plain, God-fearing people, and not among the higher classes, is a serious and deplorable sign of the times.

The knowledge which is power in the spiritual sphere, and able to heal, does not come in foreign terms, does not exhaust itself in the various criticism of Scripture, fond only of philosophic reasonings, starving souls by giving them stones for bread; but it searches the Word and work of God in the souls of men systematically, and proves that a man has studied the things in which he is to minister to the Church.

Our spiritual leaders, therefore, who at the university and in the catechetical class have replaced this spiritual knowledge by various criticism and apologetics, have much to answer for. For the last thirty years this knowledge has been neglected in both these institutions. And so knowledge was lost, the preaching became monotonous, and a great part of the Church perished. There was still eye and ear for the objective work of the Son, but the work of the Holy Spirit is slighted and neglected. Consequently spiritual life has sunk to such a degree that, while scarcely one third of the fulness of grace which is in Christ Jesus is being known and honored, men dare to assert that they preach Christ and Him crucified.

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Hence the discussion of the Holy Spirit’s work in individuals demands that, while risking the danger of being called “scholastic drivers,” we leave the paths of shallowness and generalities and proceed to careful analysis. The Holy Spirit s operations upon the various parts of our being in their several conditions must be distinguished and treated separately; not only iii the elect, but also in the non-elect, for they are not the same. It is true the Scripture teaches that God causes His sun to shine upon the good and the evil, and His rain to come down upon the just and the unjust, so that in nature every good gift coming down from the Father of lights is common to all; but in the kingdom of grace this is not so. The Sun of righteousness often shines upon one, leaving another in darkness; and the drops of grace often water one soul, while others remain utterly deprived of them.

Hence, altho the Spirit’s work in the elect is of primary importance, yet, it does not exhaust His work in individuals. Christ was set also for a fall to many in Israel; and even this is wrought by the witness of the Holy Spirit. Not only the savor of life, bait the savor of death also reaches the soul by Him; as the apostle declares regarding those who, having received the gift of the Holy Ghost, had fallen away. His activity in them, and their condition when He begins His saving or hardening operations, must be carefully noticed.

Of course, this is not the place to discuss the condition of fallen man exhaustively. This would require special inquiry. Many things which perhaps elsewhere will be explained more in detail can here receive but passing notice. But it will serve our purpose if we succeed in giving the reader such a clear view of the sinner’s condition that he can understand us when we discuss the Holy Spirit’s work upon the sinner.

By a sinner we understand man as he is, lives, and moves bar nature, i.e., without grace. And in that state he is dead in trespasses and sin; alienated from the life of God; wholly depraved and without strength; a sinner, and therefore guilty and condemned. And not only dead, but lying in the midst of death, ever sinking mare deeply into death, which if not checked in its course opens underneath ever more widely, until eternal death stands revealed.

This is the fundamental thought, the mother-idea, the principal conception, of his state. “By one man sin entered into the world, <pb n=“217”/> and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men.” And “the wages of sin is death.” “Sin being finished bringeth forth death.” To be translated into another state, one must pass from death into life.

But this general idea of death must be analyzed in its several relations, and to this end it must be determined what man was before, and what he has become after, this spiritual death.


<div3 title=“IV. Image and Likeness”>

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Image and Likeness.


“Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.” Gen. i. 26.


Glorious is the divine utterance that introduces the origin and creation of man: “And God created man after His own image and after His own likeness; after the image of God created He him” (Dutch translation).

The significance of these important words was recently discussed by the well-known professor, Dr. Edward Böhl, of Vienna. According to him it should read: Man is created “in”, not “after” God’s image, i.e., the image is not found in man’s nature or being, but outside of him in God. Man was merely set in the radiance of that image. Hence, remaining in its light, he would live in that image. But stepping out of it, he would fall and retain but his own nature, which before and after the fall is the same.[19]

In the discussion of the corruption of the human nature we will consider this opinion of the highly esteemed professor of Vienna. Let us state here simply that we reject this opinion, in which we see a return to Rome’s errors. Dr. Böhl’s negative character of sin, which is the basis of this representation, we can not entertain. Moreover, it opposes the doctrine of the Incarnation, and of Sanctification as held by the Reformed Church. Hence we believe it to be safest, first to explain the confession of the fathers concerning this, and then to show that this representation is inconsistent with the Word.

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Accepting the account of Creation as the Holy Spirit’s direct revelation, we acknowledge its absolute credibility in every part. They who do not so accept it, or who, like marry Ethical theologians, deny the literal interpretation, can have no voice in the discussion. If in the exposition of the account we are in earnest, and do not trifle with words, we must be thoroughly convinced that God actually said: “Let Us make men after Our image and after Our likeness.” But denying this and holding that these words merely represent the form in which somebody, animated by the Holy Spirit, presented man’s creation to himself, we can deduce nothing from them. Then we have no security that they are divine; we know only that a pious man attributed these thoughts to God and laid them upon His lips while they were but his own account of man’s creation:

Hence the infallibility of Sacred Scripture is our starting-point. We see in Gen. i. 27 a direct testimony of the Holy Spirit; and with fullest assurance we believe that these are the words of the Almighty spoken before He created man. With this conviction, they have decisive authority; and bowing before it; we confess that man was created after God’s likeness and after His image.

This statement, in connection with the whole account, shows that the Holy Spirit sharply distinguishes man’s. Creation and that of all other creatures. They were all manifestations of God’s glory, for He saw that they were good; an effect of His counsel, for they embodied a divine thought. But man’s, creation was special, more exalted, more glorious; for God said: “Let, Us make men after Our image and after Our likeness.”

Hence the general sense of these words is that man is totally different from all other beings; that his kind is nobler, richer, more glorious; and especially that this higher glory consists in the more intimate bond and closer relation to his Creator.

This appears from the words image and likeness. In all His other creative acts the Lord speaks, and it is done; He commanded, and it stood fast. There is a thought in His counsel, a will to execute it, and an omnipotent act to realize it, but no more; beings are created wholly outside and apart from Him. But man’s creation is totally different. Of course, there is a divine thought proceeding from the eternal counsel, and by omnipotent power this thought is realized; but that new creature is connected with the image of God.

According to the universal significance of the word, a person’s image is such a concentration of his essential features as to <pb n=“220”/> make it the very impress of his being. Whether it be in pencil, painting, or by photography, a symbol, an idea, or, statue, it is always the concentration of the essential features of man or thing., An idea is an image which concentrates those features upon the field of the mind; a statue in marble or bronze, etc., but regardless of form or manner of expression, the essential image is such a concentration of the several features of the object that it represents the object to the mind. This fixed and definite significance of an image must not be lost sight of. The image maybe imperfect, yet as long as the object is recognized in it, even tho the memory must supply the possible lack, it remains an image.

And this leads to an important observation: The fact that we can recognize a person from a fragmentary picture proves the existence of a soul-picture of that person, i.e.; an image photographed through the eye upon the soul. This image, occupying the imagination, enables us mentally to see him even in his absence and without his picture.

How is such image obtained? We do not make it, but the person himself, who while we look at him draws it upon the retina, thus putting it into our soul. In photography it is not the artist, nor his apparatus, but the features of our own countenance which as by witchery draw our image upon the negative plate. In the same manner the person receiving our image is passive, while we putting it into his soul are active. Hence in deepest sense, each of us carries his own image in or upon his face, and puts it into the human soul or upon the artist’s plate. This image consists of features which, concentrated, form that peculiar expression which shows one’s individuality. A man forms his own shadow upon a wall after his own image and likeness. As often as we cause the impress of our being to appear externally, we make it after our own image and likeness.

Returning, after these preliminary remarks, to Gen. i. zy, we notice the difference between (r) the divine image after which we are created, and (a) the image which consequently became visible in us. The image after which God made man is one, and that fixed in us quite another. The first is God’s image after which we are created, the other the image created in us. To prevent confusion, the two must be kept distinct. The former existed before the latter, else how could God have created man after it?

It is not strange that many have thought that this image and <pb n=“221”/> likeness referred to Christ, who is said to be “the Image of the invisible God,” and “the express linage of His Substance.” Not a few have accepted this as settled. Yet, with our best ministers and teachers, we believe this incorrect. It conflicts with the words, “Let Us make men after Our image and after Our likeness,” which must mean that the Father thus addressed the Son and the Holy Spirit. Some say that these words are addressed to the angels, but this can not be so, since man is not created after the image of angels. Others maintain that God addressed Himself, arousing Himself to execute His design, using” We” as a plural of majesty. But this does not agree with the immediately following singular: “And God created man after His image.” Hence we maintain the tried explanation of the Church’s wisest and godliest ministers, that by these words the Father addressed the Son and the Holy Spirit. And then the unity of the Three Persons expresses itself in the words: “And God created man after His image.” Hence this image can not be the Son. How could the Father say to the Son and to, the Holy Spirit: “Let Us make men after the image of the Son”?

That image must be, therefore, a concentration of the features of God’s Being, by which He expresses Himself. And Since God alone can represent His own Being to Himself, it follows that by the image of God we must understand the representation of His Being as it eternally exists in the divine consciousness.

Image” and “likeness” we take to be synonyms; not because a difference could not be invented; but because in ver. 27 the, word “likeness” is not even mentioned. Hence we oppose the explanation that image refers to the soul, and likeness to the body. Allowing that, by the indissoluble union of body and soul the features of the divine image must have an after-effect in the latter, which is His temple, yet there is no reason nor suggestion why we should support such a precarious distinction between image and likeness. Hence the image after which we are created is the expression of God’s Being as it exists in His own consciousness.

The next question is: What was or is there in man that caused him to be created after that image?


<div3 title=“V. Original Righteousness”>

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Original Righteousness.


“For in Him we live and move, and have our being: as certain also of your own poets have said. For we are also His offspring.”—Acts xvii. 28.


It is the peculiar characteristic of the Reformed Confession that more than any other it humbles the sinner and exalts the sinless man.

To disparage man is unscriptural. Being a sinner, fallen and no longer a real man, he must be humbled, rebuked, and inwardly broken. But the divinely created man, realizing the divine purpose or restored by omnipotent grace in the elect, is worthy of all praise, for God has made him after His own image.

Because he stood so high, he fell so low. He was such an excellent being, hence he became such, a detestable sinner. The excellency of the former is the source of the damnableness of the latter.

It is said that while the present age properly appreciates and exalts man, our doctrine only disparages him; but with all its eulogy and praise this present age has never conceived a more exalted testimony than that of Scripture, saying: “God created man in His own image.” We protest against the cry of the age, not because it makes of man too much, but too little, asserting that he is glorious even now in his fallen state.

What would you think of the man who, walking through pour flower-garden, laid waste by a violent thunder-storm, called the stem broken and mud-covered flowers, lying upon their disordered beds, magnificent? And this the present age is doing. Walking through the garden of this world, withered and disordered by sin’s thunderstorms, it cries in proud ecstasy: “What glorious beings these men! How fair and excellent!” And as the botanist would say regarding his disordered garden: “Do you call this beautiful? You should <pb n=“223”/> have seen it before the storm destroyed it”; so say we to this age: “Do you call this fallen man glorious? Compared to what he ought to be he is utterly worthless. But lie was glorious before sin ruined him, shining in all the beauty of the divine image.”

Hence our doctrine exalts him to highest glory. Next to the glory of being created after the image of God comes the glory of being God Himself. As soon as man presumes to this he thrusts at once all his glory from him; it is his detestable sin that he aspires to be like God. If it be said that even in Paradise the law prevailed that God alone is great, and the creature nothing before Him; we answer, that he that is created after the divine image has no higher ambition than to be a reflection of God; excluding the idea of being above or against God. Hence it is certain that the original man was most glorious and excellent; wherefore fallen man is most despicable and miserable.

Has fallen man then lost the image of God?

This vital question controls our view of man in every respect, and hence requires closest examination; especially since the opinions of believers concerning this are diametrically opposed. Some maintain that after the fall man retained a few remains of it, and others that he has entirely lost it.

To avoid all misunderstanding, we must first decide whether to be created after the image of God (1) refers only to the original righteousness, or (2) included also man’s nature which was clothed with this original righteousness. If the divine image consisted only in the original righteousness, then, of course, it was completely and absolutely lost; for by his fall man lost this original righteousness once for all. But if it was also impressed upon his being, his nature, and upon his human existence, then it can not disappear entirely; for, however deeply sunk, fallen man remains man.

By this we do not imply that something spiritually good was left in man; among the finally lost even the deepest fallen will retain some evidence that he was created after the divine image. We do not even hesitate to subscribe to the opinion of the fathers that if the angels, Satan included, were originally created after God’s image (which Scripture does not teach positively), then even the devil in his deep fiendishness must show some features of that image.

We do not mean that after the fall man had any willingness,: knowledge, or anything good; and they who in pulpit or writing infer this from “the few remains” of article xiv. of the Confession <pb n=“224”/> of Faith pervert its plain teaching. Altho it acknowledges that a few remains are retained, yet it follows that “all the light which is in us is changed into darkness’’; and it says before that “man is become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all his ways,” and “that he has corrupted his whole nature.” Hence these “few remains” may never be understood to imply that there remained in man any strength, willingness, or desire for good. No, a sinner in his fallen nature is altogether condemnable. And there is, as the same article confesses, “no will nor understanding conformable to the divine will and understanding, but what Christ has wrought in man, which He teacheth us when He said, “Without Me ye can do nothing.”

And thus we disarm any suspicion that we look for something good in the sinner.

With Scripture we confess: “There is none righteous, no not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God., They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

But how is this to be reconciled? How can these two go together? On the one hand the sinner has nothing, absolutely nothing good or praiseworthy; and on the other, this same sinner always retains features of the image of God!

Let us illustrate. Two horses become mad; the one is a common truck horse, the other a noble Arabian stallion. Which is the more dangerous? The latter, of course. His noble blood will break loose into more uncontrollable rage and violence. Or two clerks work in an office; the one a mere drudge of slow understanding, the other a youth with brains and piercing eye. Which could do his master the greater injury? The latter, of course, and all his schemes would show his superiority working in the wrong direction. This is always the case. There is no more dangerous enemy of the truth than an unbeliever religiously instructed. In all his impious rage he shows his superior training and knowledge. Satan is so mighty because before his fall he was so exceedingly glorious. Hence in his fall man did not put off the original nature, but he retained it. Only its action was reversed, corrupted, and turned against God.

When the captain of a man-of-war in a naval engagement betrays his king and raises the enemy’s flag, he does not first damage or sink his ship, but he keeps it as efficient for service as possible, and with all its armament intact he does the very reverse of what he <pb n=“225”/> ought to do. “Optimi coruptio pessima!” says the proverb of the wise—i.e., the greater the excellency of a thing, the more dangerous its defection. If the admiral of the fleet were to choose which of his ships should betray him, he would say: “Let it be the weakest, for defection of the strongest is the most dangerous.” It is true in every sphere of life that the excellent qualities of a thing or being do not disappear in reversed action, but become most excellently bad.

In this way we understand man’s fall. Before it he possessed the most exquisite organism which by holy impulse was directed toward the most exalted aim. Tho reversed by the fall, this precious human instrument remained, but, directed by unholy impulse; it aims at a deeply unholy object.

Comparing man to a steamship, his fall did not remove the engine. But as before the fall he moved in righteousness, so he moves now in unrighteousness. In fact, as fast as he steamed then toward felicity, so fast he steams now toward perdition, i.e., away from God. Hence the retaining of the engine made his fall all the more terrible and his destruction more certain. And thus we reconcile the two: that man retained his former features of excellency, and that his destruction is sure except he be born again.

But in the divine image we must carefully distinguish:

First, the wonderful and artistic organism called human nature.

Second, the direction in which it moved, i.e., toward the holiest end, in that God created man in original righteousness.

That God created man good and after His own image does not mean that Adam was in a state of innocence, in that he had not sinned; nor that he was perfectly equipped to become holy, gradually to ascend to greater development; but that he was created in true righteousness and holiness, indicating not the degree of his development, but his status. This was his original righteousness. Hence all the inclinations and outgoings of his heart were perfect. He lacked nothing. Only in one respect his blessedness differed from that of God’s children, viz., his good was losable and theirs not.

Of these two parts constituting the divine image—first, the inward, artistic organism of man’s being, and, second, the original righteousness in which the organism moved naturally—the latter is completely lost, and the former is reversed; but the being of the instrument, tho terribly marred, remained the same, to work in the wrong direction, i.e., in unrighteousness. Hence the features or <pb n=“226”/> after-effects of the divine image are not found in the few good things that remain in the sinner,” but in all that he does.” Man could not sin so terribly if God had not created him after His own image.

Scripture teaches, therefore, that they are all gone aside, that they are altogether become filthy, and that all come short of the glory of God; while it also declares that, even this fallen man is created after God’s image—Gen. ix. 6, and after, His likeness—James iii. 9.


<div3 title=“VI. Rome, Socinus, Arminius, Calvin”>

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Rome, Socirius, Arminius, Calvin.


“And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”—Ephes. iv. 24.


It is not surprising that believers entertain different views concerning the significance of the image of God. It is a starting-point determining the direction of four different roads. The slightest deviation at starting must lead to a totally different representation of the truth. Hence every thinking believer must deliberately choose which road he will follow:

First, the path of Rome, represented by Bellarminus.

Second, that of Arminius and Soeinus, walking arm-in-arm.

Third, that of the majority of the Lutherans, led by Melanchthon.

Lastly, the direction mapped out by Calvin, i.e., that of the Reformed.

Rome teaches that the original righteousness does not belong to the divine image, but to the human nature as a superadded grace. Quoting Bellarminus, first, man is created consisting of two parts, flesh and spirit; second, the divine image is stamped partly on the flesh, but chiefly on the human spirit, the seat of the moral and rational consciousness; third, there, is a conflict between flesh and spirit, the flesh lusting against the spirit; fourth, hence man has a natural inclination and desire for sin, which as desire alone is no sin as long as it is not yielded to; fifth, in His grace and compassion God gave man, independently of his nature, the original righteousness for a defense and safety-valve to control the flesh; sixth, by his fall man has willingly thrust this superadded righteousness from him: hence as sinner he stands again in his naked nature (in puris naturalibus) which, as a matter of course, is inclined to sin, inasmuch as his desires are sinful.

We believe that the Romish theologians will allow that this is the current view among them. According to Catechismus Romanus, <pb n=“228”/> question 38: “God gave to man from the dust of the earth a body, in such a way that he was partaker of immortality not by virtue of his nature, but by a superadded grace. As to his soul, God, formed him in His image and after His likeness, and gave him a free will; moreover [præterea, besides, hence not belonging to his nature], He so tempered his desires that they continually obey the dictates of reason. Besides this He has poured into him the original righteousness, and gave him dominion over all other creatures.”

The view of Socinus, and of Arminius who followed him closely, is totally different. It is a well-known fact that the Socinians denied the Godhead of Christ, who, as they taught, was born a mere man. But (and by this they misled the Poles and Hungarians) they acknowledged that He had become God. Hence after His Resurrection He could be worshiped as God. But in what sense? That the divine nature was given Him? Not at all. In Scripture, magistrates, being clothed with the divine majesty which enabled them to exercise authority, are called “gods.” This applies to Jesus, who, after His Resurrection, received of the Father power over all creatures in an eminent degree. Hence He is absolutely clothed with divine majesty. If a sinner, as a magistrate, is called god, how much more can we conceive of Christ as being called God, simply to express that He was clothed with divine authority?

In order to support this false view of Christ’s Godhead, the Socinians falsified the doctrine of the image of God, and made it equivalent to man’s dominion over the animals. This was in their opinion also a kind of higher majesty, containing something divine, which was the image of God. Hence the first Adam, being clothed with majesty and dominion over a portion of creation, was therefore of God’s offspring and created in His image. And the second Adam, Christ, also clothed with majesty and dominion over creation, the Scripture therefore calls God.

That the Remonstrants also adopted this doubly false representation appears conclusively from what the moderate professor À Limborch wrote in the beginning of the eighteenth century: “This image consisted in the power and exalted position which God gave to man above all creation. By this dominion he shows most clearly the image of God in the earth.” He adds.: “That in order to exercise this power, he was endowed with glorious talents. But these are only means. Dominion over the animals is the principal thing.” Hence we infer that the bravest and coarsest tamer of animals” <pb n=“229”/> playing with lions and tigers as if, pet dogs, is the tenderest child of God. We say this in all seriousness and without a thought of mockery, to show the foolishness of the Socinian system.

The Lutheran view, as will be seen, occupies the middle ground between the Roman Catholic and the Reformed.

Its most prominent part (readily recognized in the representation of Dr. Böhl) is that the divine image is merely the original righteousness. They do not deny that man, as man, in his nature and being shows something beautiful and excellent, reminding one of the image of God; but the real image itself is not in man’s nature, nor in his spiritual being, but only in the original wisdom and righteousness in which God created him. Gerhardt writes: “The real similarity with God lay in the soul of man, partly in his intelligence, partly in his moral and rational inclinations, which three excellencies together constitute his original righteousness.” And Bauer: “Properly speaking, this image of God consists of sortie perfections of will, intellect, and feeling which God created together with man (concreatas), which is the original righteousness.” Hence the Lutheran doctrine teaches that the proper image of God is now totally lost, and that the sinner is as helpless before the work of grace as a stock or block, as one fettered and unable even to rattle his chain.

The Reformed, on the contrary, have always denied this; and taught that the image of God, being one with His likeness, did not consist only in the original righteousness, but included also man’s being and personality; not only his state, but also his being. Hence the original righteousness was not something additional, but his being, nature, and state were originally in the most beautiful harmony and causal relation. Ursinus says: “The image of God has reference: ( r) to the immaterial substance of the soul with its gifts of knowledge and will; (2) to all in-created knowledge of God and of His will; (3) to the holy and righteous inclination of the will, and moving of the heart, i.e., the perfect righteousness; (4.) to the bliss, holy peace, and abundance of all enjoyment; and (5) to the dominion over the creatures. In all these our moral nature reflects the image of God, tho imperfectly. ‘ St. Paul explains the image of God from the true righteousness and holiness, without excluding, however, the wisdom and in-created knowledge of God. He rather presupposes them.”

These four views concerning the divine image present four <pb n=“230”/> opposing opinions that are clearly drawn and sharply outlined. The Socinian conceives of the image of God as entirely outside of man and his moral being, and consisting in the exercise of something resembling divine authority. The Roman Catholic does indeed look for the divine image in man, but severs him from the divine ideal, i.e., the original righteousness which is put upon him as a garment. The Lutheran, like the Socinian, puts the divine image outside of man, exclusively in the divine ideal, which he considers not as foreign to man, but calculated for him and originally created in his nature (however distinct from it). Lastly, the Reformed confesses that man’s whole personality is the impress of God’s image in his being and attributes; to which belongs naturally that ideal perfection expressed in the confession of original righteousness.

Undoubtedly the Reformed confession is the purest and most excellent expression of the Bible revelation; hence we maintain it from deepest conviction. It maintains that God created man in His image, and not his nature only, like Rome; nor his authority only, like the Socinians; nor his righteousness only, like the Lutherans.

His divine image does not belong merely to an attribute, state, or quality of man, but to the whole man; for He created man in His image; and the confession which subtracts from this detracts from the positive Scriptural statement, i.e., from the Spirit’s direct testimony: “Let Us make man in Our image and after Our likeness,” and not: “Let Us re-form man in Our image.”

Neither is the divine image only in man’s personality, as the Vermittelungs (Mediation) theologians, following Fichte, hold. Man’s personality certainly belongs to it, but it is not all, nor even the principal thing. Personality is contrast to our equals, and contrast can not be after the image of God, for God is One. Personality is a very feeble feature of the divine image. True personality is no contrast, but glorious completeness, like that in God. One person is something defective.; three persons in one being, completeness.

Wherefore we protest against these loud and emphatic assertions that the image is our imperfect personality, as leading the Church away from the Scripture. No; man himself is the image of God, his whole being as man—in his spiritual existence, in the.—being and nature of his soul, in the attributes and workings that <pb n=“231”/> and express his being; not as tho this human being were a locomotive without steam, posing as a model, but a living and active organism exerting influence and power.

As a being man is not defective, but, perfect; not in a state of becoming, but of being—i.e., he was not to become righteous, but was righteous. This is his original righteousness. Hence, that God created man in His image signifies:

1. That man’s being is in finite form the impress of the infinite Being of God.

2. His attributes are in finite form the impress of God’s attributes.

3. His state was the impress of the felicity of God.

4. The dominion which he exercised was image and impress of God’s dominion and authority.

To which may be added that, since man’s body is calculated fog the spirit, it also must contain some shadows of that image.

This confession the Reformed churches must maintain in the pulpit, in the catechetical classes, and above all in the recitation halls of theology.


<div3 title=“VII. The Neo-Kohlbruggians”>

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The Neo-Kohlbruggians.


“And Adam lived a hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, and after his image; and called his name Seth.”—Gen. v. 3.


Many are the efforts made to alter the meaning of the word, “Let Us make man in Our image and after Our, likeness,” by a different translation; especially by making it to read “in” instead of “after” our likeness. This new reading is Dr. Böhl’s main support. With this translation his system stands or falls.

According to him, man is not the bearer of the divine image, but by a divine act he was set in it, as a plant is set in the sun. As long as the plant stood in the dark, its shape and flowers are invisible; carried into the light its beauty becomes apparent. In like manner, man was without luster until God put him in the shining glory of His image, and then he appeared beautiful. Of course, this idea requires the translation: “Let Us create, man in Our image.”

Let us explain the difference: Gen. i, 26 in the Hebrew has two different prepositions. The one standing before “likeness” (;) is invariably used in comparisons; while the other before “image” is mostly used to denote that one thing is found in another. Hence the translation, “In our image and after our likeness,” has apparently much in its favor. This translation (altho we believe it to be incorrect; for our reasons see the next article) does not alter the meaning, if rightly interpreted.

And what is that right interpretation? Not that of Dr. Böhl; for, according to him, the newly created man did not stand in the midst of that image, but only in its reflection and radiation. The plant is not set in the sun, but in the sun-rays. No; if Adam stood in the midst of God’s image, then he was wholly encompassed by it.

Let us illustrate. There are wooden images covered with paper on which is printed a head or bust, colored to imitate marble or <pb n=“233”/> bronze. The wood may be said to be in the image, covered by it from all sides. Again, the sculptor actually chisels the image, in his mind, or posing as a model, about the marble until it encloses the whole black. In like manner it may be said that Adam, upon his first awakening to consciousness, was enclosed by God’s image; not externally, and he only its reflection, but its ectype penetrating his whole being.

The correctness of this exegesis appears from Gen. v: i-3; the contents of which, tho often overlooked, settle this matter. Here Scripture brings Adam’s creation in direct connection with his own begetting a sod after his own likeness. We read: “In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made He him; male and female created He them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. And Adam lived a hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth.”

In both instances the Hebrew word zelem, image, is used. Hence to obtain a clear and correct understanding of the statement, “to be created in the image and after the likeness of God,” Scripture, invites us to let the child’s resemblance to the father assist us. And the father’s likeness lies in the child’s being, is part of it, and does not merely beam from the father upon the child externally. Even in his absence or after his death the resemblance of features continues.

Hence to beget a child in our image and after our likeness, means to give existence to a being bearing our image and resemblance, altho as a person distinct from us. From which it must follow that when Scripture says, regarding Adam, that God created him in His image and after His likeness, using the same words “image” (zelem) and “likeness” (demoeth), it can not mean that the divine image shone upon him, so that he stood and walked in its light; but that God so created him that his whole being, person, and state reflected the divine image, since he carried it in himself.

It is remarkable that the prepositions used in Gen. i. ab appear also in this passage, but in a reversed order. Rendering the preposition “?” “in,” as in Gen. i: 26, it reads: “He begat a son in his likeness and after his image.” And this is conclusive. It shows how utterly unfair it is to deduce a different meaning from the use of different prepositions. Even if we translate “?” by “In”—“in the image of God”—the sense is the same; in both, the image is not a <pb n=“234”/> reflection falling upon man, indicating his state only, but also his form, both state and being.


However, before we proceed, let Dr. Böhl speak for himself. For we might possibly have wrongly understood him; it is therefore reasonable that his own words be laid before our readers.

We take these citations from his work; entitled, “Von der Incarnation des Gottlichen Wortes”; a dogmatic, highly important book, wherein he deals the Vermittellungs theologians blows that have filled our hearts with joy, partly because God is honored thereby, and also because of the consolation offered to broken hearts. Hence it does not enter our minds to belittle the labor of Dr. Böhl. We only contend that his presentation of the image of God is not the true one. We point, therefore, to the important and exceedingly clear sentences of pages 28 and 29:


“Gott nun veranstaltete es so, dass der Mensch gleich anfangs unter den Einfluss des Guten zu stehen kam and somit das Gute that. Er schuf ihn im Bilde Gottes, nach seiner Gleichheit (Gen. i. 26). Was dies heisst, wird dann erst recht deutlich, wenn wir die Wiederherstellung des gefallenen Menschen (nach Ephes. iv. 24; Col. iii. 9) in Betracht ziehen. Paulus blickt hier auf den anfänglichen Zustand hin, wenn er redet von dam neuen Menschen, den wir nach Ausziehung des alten anzuziehen hätten. Er bezeichnet nun diesen neuen Menschen als einen Gott gemäss geschaffen (KrcaWra) in Gerechtigkeit und Heiligkeit, wie sie nach Wahrheit ist. Diese apostolischen Ausdrücke enthalten sine Umschreibung jener Ausstattung, welche Mose mit den Worten: ‘Im Bilde Gottes, nach seiner Gleichheit’ kennzeichnet. Die Wiedergeburt ist sine neue Schöpfung, die aber nach der Vorschrift der alten bestellt ist, ohne etwas davon- nosh dazuzuthun. Der Stand im Bilde Gottes, in dem der Mensch nach der Gleichheit Gottes war, ist also etwas, was man von dem Menschen hinwegnehmen kann, ohne die Creatur Gottes selbst aufzuheben. Es ist dem Apostel weiter eigenthümlich, die Bewegungen des neuen Menschen unter dem Bilde von verschiedenen Gewändern darzustellen, die man anzuziehen habe (Col. iii, 12 ff.). Grund and Veranlassung für solche Umwandlung ist Christus, der Geist, den Christus vom Voter her sendet, oder der Stand in Christo odes in der Gnade (z. B. 2 Cor. v. 17; Gal. v. 16, 18, 25; Rom. v. 2) Und ganz ebenso ist nach Gen. i, 26 Grund für die Gleichheit mit Gott der Stand im Bilde Gottes.”[20]

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The words in italics dispel, alas! all doubt. It is possible to conceive of the image of God as having completely disappeared; and yet man remaining man.

Dr. Böhl repeats this, clearly in the following words (p. 29)


“Wenn wir nun die Creatur aus jenem Stande hinausgetreten denken, so bleibt these Creatur intact.[21]


This goes so far that Dr. Böhl himself felt how closely he thus returned to the boundaries of Rome, for which reason he continues, saying:


“Nur freilich, dass diese Creatur nicht, wie die romische Kirche lehrt, immer noch genug übrig behält, um sich, wieder mit Hilfe des Gnadengeschenkes Christi selbst zu rehabilitiren. Sondern nach dem Falle ist der Mensch and zwar sein Ich mit den dem Menschen anerschaffenen höchsten Gaben (siehe Calvin, ‘Inst.,’ ii., 1, 9) aus der rechten Stellung herausgetreten and dem Tode als Herscher, dem Gesetz als unbarmherziger Treibert preisgegeben.”[22]

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But stronger still: Dr. Böhl is so firmly attached to this presentation that he says even of Christ, that He, before His Resurrection, lacked the divine image. See page 45: “Our Lord and Savior stood outside the image of God.” “Aussexhalb des Bildes Gottes stand unser Herr.” Which is all the more serious since in consequence of this presentation, the passions and desires toward the sinful are, considered by themselves, sinless, just as Rome teaches it.

So we read on page 73:


“Das der Mensch Begierden hat, dass ihn Leidenschaften (paqh) treiben, wie Zorn, Furcht, Muth, Eifersucht, Freude, Liebe, Hass, Sehnsucht, Mitleid, dies Alles constituirt noch keine Sünde, denn das Vermögen, um Zorn, Unlust, oder Mitleid and dergl. m. zu empfinden, ist von Gott geschaffen. Ohne dem wäre kein Leben und keine Bewegung im Menschen. Also die Begierde and überhaupt die Leidenschaften sind an sich nicht Sünde. Sie werden es and sind es im actuellen Zustand des Menschen, wail durch ein dazwischentretendes Gebot and durch jene verkehrte Lebensrichtung, die Paulus einen v6pos ~S apaprcas nennt, das menschliche Ich bewogen wird, zu den Leidenschaften and Begierden Stellung zu nehmen, d. h. sich richtig oder unrichtig zu ihnen zu verhalten.”[23]


Let each judge for himself whether we said too much when we spoke of the necessity of protesting, in the name of our Reformed Confession, against the creeping in of this Platonic presentation, which later on was defended partly by the Romish, partly by the Lutheran theologians.

Dr. Böhl is excellent when he shows that the original righteousness was not simply a germ, which had still to be developed, but that Adam’s righteousness was complete, lacking nothing. Equally excellent is his proof against Rome, showing that man, in his naked nature, absolutely lacks the power to holiness. But he errs in representing <pb n=“237”/> the image of God as something without which man remains man. This places righteousness and holiness mechanically outside of us, while the organic connection between that image and our own being, which once existed and ought, to exist, is the very thing that must be maintained.

And yet, let it not be thought that Dr. Böh1 has any inclination toward Rome. If we see aright, his deviation, psychologically, explained, springs from an entirely different motive.

It is a well-known fact that Dr. Köhlbrugge has contended, with a glorious ardor of faith, against the reestablishing of the Covenant of Works in the midst of the Covenant of Grace: and has reintroduced us with stress and emphasis, to the completely finished work of our Savior, to which nothing can be added. Hence this preacher of righteousness was compelled to make, the child of God remember what he was outside of Christ. Of course, outside of Christ, there is no difference between a child of God and a godless person. Then all lie in one heap; as the ritual of the Lord’s Supper so beautifully confesses: “That we seek our life out of ourselves, in Jesus Christ, and thereby acknowledge that we lie in the midst of death’’; as also the Heidelberg Catechism confesses: “That I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil.”

If we see aright, Dr. Böhl has tried to reduce this part of the truth to a dogmatic system. He has reasoned it out as follows: “If a child of God has his life outside of himself, then Adam, who was a child of God, must also have had his life outside of himself Hence the image of God was not in, but outside of, man.”

And what is the mistake of this reasoning? This, that the child of God remains a sinner until his death, and is only fully restored after his death. Then only complete redemption is his. While in Adam, before his fall, there was no sin; hence Adam could never say that in himself he lay in the midst of death.

With all the earnestness of our hearts we beseech all those who with us possess the treasure of Dr. Köhlbrugge’s preaching carefully to notice this deviation. If the younger Kohlbruggians should be tempted to misunderstand their teacher in this respect, the loss would be incalculable, and the breach in the Reformed Confession would be lasting; since it touches a point which affects the whole confession of the truth.



<div3 title=“VIII. After the Scripture”>

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After the Scripture.


“In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God created He him.”—Gen. v. 1.


In the preceding pages we have shown that the translation, “in Our image,” actually means, “after Our image.” To make anything in an image is no language; it is unthinkable, logically untrue. We now proceed to show how it should be translated, and give our reason for it.

We begin with citing some passages from the Old Testament in which occurs the preposition “B” which, in Gen. i. 27, stands before image, where it can not be translated “in,” but requires a preposition of comparison such as “like” or “after.”

Isa. xlviii. 10 reads: “Behold I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” Here the preposition “B “stands before silver, as in Gen. i. 27 before image. It is obvious that it can not be translated “In silver,” but “as silver.” Surely the Lord would not cast the Jews in a pot of melted silver. The preposition is one of comparison; as in 2 Peter i. 17 the refining of Israel is compared to that of a noble metal. It may be translated: “I have refined thee, but not according to the nature of silver”; or simply: “as silver.”

Psalm cii. reads: “My days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth.” In the Hebrew the same preposition “B” occurs before smoke, and almost all exegetes translate it, “as smoke.”

Again, Psalm xxxv. 2 reads: “Take hold of shield and buckler and stand up for mine help.” “Stand up in my help” makes no sense. The thought allows no other translation than this: “Stand up so that Thou be my help;” or, “Stand up as my help”; or, as the Authorized Version has it: “Stand up for my help.”

We find the same result in Lev. xvii. 11: “The life of the flesh <pb n=“239”/> is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the, altar; to make an atonement for your souls; for ii is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. Here the same preposition “B” occurs. In the Hebrew it reads: “Banefesh” (2~A?? ), which was translated “for the soul.” It would be absurd to render it: “in the soul”; for the blood does not come in the soul, nor does the atonement take place in the soul, but on the altar. Here we have also a comparison (substitution). The blood is as the soul, represents the soul in the atonement, takes the place of the soul.

We notice the same in Prov. iii. 26, where the wisdom of Solomon wrote: “The Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.” The same preposition occurs here. The Hebrew text reads “Bkisleka” (~~’~??), literally, “for ‘a’ loin to thee.” And because the loins are a man’s strength, it is used metaphorically to indicate the ground of confidence and hope in distress. The sense is therefore perfectly clear. Says Solomon: “The Lord shall be to thee as a ground of confidence, thy refuge, and thy hope.” For if we should read here: “The Lord shall be in your hope,” it might be inferred that, among other things, the Lord was also in the hope of the godly; which would be unscriptural and savor of Pelagianism. In the Scripture, the Lord alone is the hope of His people. Hence the preposition does not mean, “in,” but it indicates a comparison.

To add one more example, Exod. xviii. 4 reads: “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.” Translate this, “The God of my father was in my help,” and how unscriptural and illogical the thought!

From these passages, to which others might be added, it appears:

(1) That this preposition can not always be translated by “in.”

(2) That its use as a preposition of comparison, in the sense of “like,” “for,” “after,” is far from being rare.

Armed with this information, let us now return to Gen. i. 26; and in our opinion, it does not offer us now any difficulty at all. As in Isa. xlviii. 10, the preposition and noun are translated “as silver”; in Psalm cii. 4, “as smoke”; in Psalm xxxv, 2, “as” or “to my help”; in Lev. xvii. 11, “as” or “in the place of my soul”; in Prov. iii. 16, “as,” or “to my confidence,” the German Version of the Vienna Hebrew Bible translates, “Let Us make men to, or as Our image,” i.e., let Us make men, who shall be Our image on the earth., Or more freely: “Let Us make a sort of being who <pb n=“240”/> will bear Our image on earth, who will be as Our image on earth, or be to Us on earth for an image.”

Then it follows, in Gen. i. zy: “And God created man for His image, to be an image of God created He him.”

It is, of course, exactly the same whether I say, “God created man after His image,” i.e., so that man became bearer of His image, or “God created man for an image of Himself.” In both instances, and in similar manner, it is expressed that man should exhibit an image of God: Thus far the image of God was lacking in the earth. When God had created man, the lack was supplied: for that image was man, upon whose being the Lord God had stamped His own image. Hence we see no difference in the two translations.

Speaking of the image stamped on sealing-wax by a seal, I can say, “I have stamped the wax after the image of the seal,” referring to the concave image of the seal; or, “The image is stamped on the wax,” referring to the convex image on the wax.

We add three remarks:

First, the word “man” n Gen. i. 26 does not refer to one person, but to the whole race. Adam was not merely a person, bud our progenitor and federal head. The whole race was in his loins. Humanity consists at any given moment of the aggregate of those who live or will live in this world, whether many or few. Adam alone was humanity; when Eve was given him he and she were humanity. “Let Us make man in Our image and after Our likeness,” is equal to: “Let Us create humanity, which will bear Our image.” But it refers also to the individual in that he is a member of the human family. Hence Adam begat children in his image and after his own likeness. Yet there is a difference. Men have different gifts, talents, and qualifications; the complete impress of the divine image could appear not in individual endowments, but in the full manifestation of the race, if it had remained sinless.

Hence the Dutch Version uses the plural, altho the Hebrew liar the singular “man”: not Adam alone, but the genus man, humanity, was created in the divine image.

Hence when the original man fell, the second Adam came in Christ, who, as the second federal Head, contained in Himself the whole Church of God. In His meditorial capacity Christ appeared as God’s image in Adam’s place. Wherefore every member of the Church must be transformed after His image—1 Cor. xv. 49; <pb n=“241”/> Rom. viii. 29. And the Church, representing regenerated humanity, is the pleroma of the Lord; for it is called “the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.”


Secondly, since man is created to be God’s image on earth, he must be willing to remain image, and never presume or imagine to be original. Original and image are opposites. God is God, and man is not God, but only the image of God. Hence it is the essence, of sin when man refuses to remain image, reflection, shadow, exalting himself to be something real in himself. Conversion depends, therefore, solely upon his willingness to become image again, i.e., to believe. He that becomes an image is nothing in himself, and exhibits all that he is in absolute dependence upon Him whose image he bears; and this is at once man’s highest honor and completest dependence.


Lastly, God must have His image in the earth. For this purpose He created Adam. Having defiled it beyond recognition, man denies the existence of the divine image in the earth. And thus image-worship originated. Image-worship means that man says: “I will undertake to make an image of God.” And this diametrically opposes God’s work. It is His holy prerogative to make an image of Himself.; and the creature should never dare undertake it. Hence it is presumption when, aspiring to be God, man refuses to remain His image, defiles it in himself, and undertakes to represent God in gold or silver.

Image-worship is an awful sin. God saith: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.” This sin is from Satan. He always imitates God’s work. He will not be less than God. When at last the Great Beast appears, the Dragon proclaims: “They that dwell in the earth should make an image of the Beast!” God has decreed to make His own image to be the object of His eternal pleasure. But Satan, opposing this, defiles that image and makes an image for himself; not of map, for he is defiled and ruined, but of a beast. And thus in his supreme manifestation he judges himself. God’s Son became a man, Satan’s creation is a beast.

When finally the Beast and its image are overthrown, by One who is like a son of man, it is the Lord’s triumph over His enemies. Then the divine image is restored, nevermore to be defiled. And the Almighty God rejoices forever and ever in His own reflection.


<div3 title=“IX. The Image of God in Man”>

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The Image of God in Man.


“As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”—1 Cor. xv. 49.


One more point remains to be discussed, viz., whether the divine image refers to the image of Christ.

This singular opinion has found many warm defenders in the Church from the beginning. It originated with Origen, who with his brilliant, fascinating, and seducing heresies has unsettled many things in the Church; and his heresy in this respect has found many defenders both East and West. Even Tertullian and Ambrose supported it, as well as Basil and Chrysostom; and it took no less a person than Augustine to uproot it.

Our Reformed theologians, closely following Augustine, have strongly opposed it. Junius, Zanchius and Calvin, Voetius and Coccejus condemned it as error. We can safely say that in our Reformed inheritance this error never had a place. .

But in the last century it has crept again into the Church. The pantheistic philosophy occasioned it; and its after-effects have tempted our German and Dutch mediation theologians to return to this ancient error.

The great philosophers who enthralled the minds of men at the beginning of this century fell in love with the idea that, God became man. They taught not that the Word became flesh, but God became man; and that in the fatal sense that God is ever becoming, and that He becomes a better and a purer God as He becomes more purely man. This pernicious system, which subverts the foundations of the Christian faith, and under a Christian form annihilates essential Christianity, has led to the doctrine that in Christ Jesus this incarnation had become a fact; and from it was deduced that God would have become man even if man had not sinned.

We have often spoken of the danger of teaching this doctrine. <pb n=“243”/> The Scripture repudiates it, teaching that Christ is a Redeemer from and an atonement for sin. But a mere passing contradiction will not stop this evil; this poisonous thread, running through the warp and woof of the Ethical theology, will not be pulled from the preaching until the conviction prevails that it is philosophic and pantheistic, leading away from the simplicity of Scripture.

But for the present nothing can be done. Almost all the German manuals now used by our rising ministers feed this error; hence the widespread prevalence of the idea that the image in which man was created was the Christ.

And this is natural. So long as it is maintained that, even without sin, man was destined for Christ and Christ for man, it must follow that the original man was calculated for Christ, and hence was created after the image of Christ.

For evidence that this deviates from the truth, we refer theologians to the writings of Augustine, Calvin, and Voetius on this point, and to our lay-readers we offer a short explanation why we and all Reformed churches reject this interpretation.

We begin with referring to the many passages in Scripture, teaching that the redeemed sinner must be renewed and transformed after the image of Christ.

In 2 Cor. iii. 18 we read: “We all are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord”; and in Rom. viii. 29: “That we are predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son”; and in n Cor. xv. 49: “As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” To this category belong all such passages in which the Holy Spirit admonishes us to conform ourselves to the example of Jesus, which may not be understood as mere imitation, but which decidedly means a transformation into His image. And lastly, here belong those passages that teach that we must increase to a perfect man, “to the stature of the fulness of Christ”; and that “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

Hence believers are called to transform themselves after Christ’s image, which is the final aim of their redemption. But this image is not the Eternal Word, the Second Person in the Trinity, but the Messiah, the Incarnate Word. 1 Cor. xv. 44 furnishes the undeniable, proof. St. Paul declares there that the first man Adam was of the earth earthy; i.e., not only after the fall, but by creation. Then he says that as believers lave borne the image of the earthy, so they <pb n=“244”/> will also bear the image of the heavenly, i.e., Christ. This shows clearly that in his original state man did not possess the image of Christ, but that afterward he will possess it. What Adam received in creation is clearly distinguished from what a redeemed sinner possesses in Christ; distinguished in this particular, that it was not according to his nature to be formed after Christ’s image, which image he could receive only by grace after the fall.

This is evident also from what St. Paul teaches in— 1 Cor. xi. In the third verse, speaking of the various degrees of ascending glory, he says that the man is the head of the woman, and the head of every man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God. And yet, having spoken of these four, woman, man, Christ, God, he says emphatically, in ver. 7, not as might be expected, “The woman is the glory of the man, the man the glory of Christ,” but, omitting the link Christ, he writes: “For the man is the glory of God, and the woman the glory of the man.” If this theory under consideration were correct, he should have said: “The man is the image of Christ.”

Hence it is plain that according to Scripture the image after which we are to be renewed is not that after which we are created; the two must be distinguished. The latter is that of the Triune God whose image penetrated into the being of the race. The former is that of the holy and perfect Man Christ Jesus, our federal Head, and as such the Example [Dutch, Voorbeeld; literally, an image placed before one.—Trans.], after which every child of God is to be renewed, and which at last he shall resemble.

Hence Scripture offers two different representations: first, the Son who is the image of the Father as the Second Person in the Trinity; second, the Mediator our Example [Voorbeeld, image put before one], hence our image after which we are to be renewed; and between the two there is almost no connection. The Scripture teaching that the Son of God is the express image of His Person and the image of the Invisible, refers to the relation between the Father and the Son in the hidden mystery of the Divine Being. But speaking of our calling to be renewed after the image of Christ, it refers to the Incarnate Word, our Savior, tempted like as we are in all things, yet without sin.

Mere similarity of sound should not lead us to make this mistake. Every effort to translate Gen. i. 26, “Let Us make man in or after the image of the Son,” is confusing. Then “Let Us” must refer to the Father speaking to the Holy Spirit; and this can not <pb n=“245”/> be. Scripture never places the Father and the Holy Spirit in such relation. Moreover, it would put the Son outside the greatest act of creation, viz., the creation of man. And Scripture says: “Without Him was not anything made that was made”; and again: “Through Him are created all things in heaven and on earth.”

Hence this “Let Us” must be taken either as a plural of majesty, of which the Hebrew has not a single instance in the first person; or as spoken by the Triune God, the Three Persons mutually addressing each other; or the Father addressing the two other Persons. A third is impossible.

Supposing that the Three Persons address each other; the image can not refer to the Son, because, speaking of His own, He can not say, “Our image,” without including the other Persons. Or suppose that the Father speaks to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; even then it can not refer to the image of the Son, since He is the Father’s image and not that of the Holy Spirit. In whatever sense it be taken, this view is untenable, outside the analogy of Scripture, and inconsistent with the correct interpretation of Gen. i. 26.

To put it comprehensively: If the divine image refers to the Christ, it must be that of the Eternal Son, or of the Mediator, or of Christ in the flesh. These three are equally impossible. First, the Son is Himself engaged in the creative work. Second, without sin there is no need of a Mediator. Third, Scripture teaches that the Son became flesh after our image, but never that in the creation we became flesh after His image.

The notion that the divine image refers to Christ’s righteousness and holiness, implying that Adam was created in extraneous righteousness, confounds the righteousness of Christ which we embrace by faith and which did not exist when Adam was created, and the original, eternal righteousness of God the Son. It is true that David embraced the imputed righteousness, altho it existed not in his day, but David was a sinner and Adam before the fall was not. He was created without sin; hence the divine image can not refer to the righteousness of Christ, revealed only in relation to sin.

In our present sad condition, we confess unconditionally that even now we lie in the midst of death, and have our life outside of ourselves in Christ alone. But we add: Blessed be God, it shall not always be so. With our last breath we die wholly to sin, and in the resurrection morning we shall be like Him; hence in the eternal felicity our life shall be no more without us, but in us.

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Wherefore, to put the separation which was caused only by sin, and which in the saint continues only on account of sin, in Adam before the fall, is nothing else than to carry something sinful into Creation itself, and to annihilate the divine statement that man was created good.

Wherefore we admonish preachers of the truth to return to the old, tried paths in this respect, and teach in recitation-hall, pulpit, and catechetical class that man was created after the image of the Triune God.


<div3 title=“X. Adam Not Innocent, but Holy”>

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Adam Not Innocent, but Holy.


“Created in righteousness and true holiness.”—Ephes. iv. 24.


It remains, therefore, as of old, that “God created man good and after His own image, that is, in true righteousness and holiness, that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love Him, and live with Him in eternal happiness, and glorify and praise Him.” Or, as the Confession of Faith has it: “We believe that God created man, out of the dust of the earth, and made him and formed him after His own image and likeness, good and righteous and wholly capable in all things to will, agreeably to the will of God.”

Every representation which depreciates in the least this original righteousness must be opposed.

Adam’s righteousness lacked nothing. The idea that he was holy inasmuch as he had not sinned, and by constant development could increase his holiness, so that if he had not fallen he would have attained a still holier state, is incorrect; and betrays ignorance in this respect.

The difference between man in his original state and in the state of sin is similar to that between a healthy child and a sick man. Both must increase in strength. If the child remains what he is, he is not healthy. Health includes growth and increase of strength and development until maturity be attained. The same is true of the sick man; he can not remain the same. He must recover or grow worse. If he is to recover, he must gain in strength. So far both are the same.

But here the similarity ceases. Increase the strength of the sick at once, and he will be well, and what he should be: But add the full strength of the man to the child, and he will be unnatural and abnormal. For the present the child needs no more than he has. He lacks nothing at any given moment. To be a normal child in perfect <pb n=“248”/> health, he must be just what he is. But the sick person needs a great deal. In order to be healthy and normal he must not be what he is. The child, so far as health and strength are concerned, is perfect; but the sick person is very imperfect as regards health and strength. The condition of the child is good; that of the sick man is not good. And the former’s healthy growth is something entirely different from the tatter’s improvement in health and strength.

This shows how wrong it is to apply sanctification to Adam before the fall. Sanctification is inconceivable with reference to sinless man; foreign to the conception of a creature whom God calls good.


“Excellent,” says one; hence Adam was born in childlike innocence gradually to attain a higher moral development without sin; hence sanctification after all!

Certainly not. A believer’s sanctification ceases when he dies. In death he dies to all sin. Sanctification is merely the process which partly or wholly eliminates sin from man. Wholly freed from sin he is holy, and it is impossible to make him holier than holy. Even for this reason it is absurd to apply sanctification to holy Adam. What need of washing that which is clean? Sanctification presupposes unholiness, and Adam was not unholy. Sin being absolutely absent, holiness lacks nothing, but is complete. Adam possessed the same complete holiness now possessed by the child of God in which he stands by faith, and by and by in actuality when through death he has absolutely died unto sin.

Yet in heaven God’s children will clot stand still—their joy and glory will ever increase, but not their holiness, which lacks nothing. And to be more holy than perfectly holy is impossible. Their development will consist in drinking ever more copiously from the life of God.

The same is true of sinless Adam; he could not be sanctified. Sanctification is healing, and a healthy person can not be healed. Sanctification is to rid one of poison, but poison can not be drawn from the hand that is not bitten. The idea of holy, holier, holiest is absurd. That which is broken is not whole, and that which is whole is not broken. Sanctification is to make whole, and since in Adam nothing was broken, there was nothing to be made whole. More whole than whole is unthinkable.

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Yet altho holy, Adam did not remain what he was, he did not stand still without an aim in life. Take, e.g., the difference between him and God’s child. The latter possesses an unlosable treasure, but Adam’s was losable, for he lost it. Not that he was less holy than the saint; for this has nothing to do with it.

Let us illustrate. Of two dishes, one is fine cut glass, hence breakable; the other coarse glass, but unbreakable. Is the latter now more whole than the former? Or can the former be made more whole? Of course not; its wholeness has nothing to do with its being breakable or not. Hence the fact that Adam’s treasure was losable does not touch the question of holiness at all. Whether one is holy, or yet to be made holy, does not depend upon the losableness of the treasure, but upon its being lost or not.


How this holy development of Adam was to be effected we, do not know. We may not inquire after things God has kept from us. As sinners we can no more conceive of such sinless development than of the unfolding of the heavenly glory of God’s children.

Confining ourselves closely to Scripture, we know, first, that sinless man would not have died; second, that as a reward for his work he would have received eternal life, i.e., being perfectly able from moment to moment to do God’s will, he would always have desired and loved to do it; and for this he would have been rewarded continually with larger measures of the life and glory of God.

We compare the contrast between Adam’s condition and ours to that between the royal child born possessor of vast treasures, and a child of poverty that must earn everything or have another to earn it for him. The former lacks nothing, altho he has only toys to dispose of; for his father’s whole estate is his. Growing up, he does not become richer, for his treasures remain the same; but he becomes more conscious of them. So Adam’s treasures would never have increased, for all things were his; only as his life gradually unfolded would he have had more conscious enjoyment of his riches.

Hence original righteousness does not refer to Adam’s degree of development, nor to his condition, but to his state; and that was perfectly good.

All those unscriptural notions of Adam s increase in holiness spring from the unscriptural ideas which men, tempted by pantheistic heresies, have formed of holiness.

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“Be ye then perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” does not mean that you, boastful man, puffed up by philosophic madness, must become like God. A creature you will remain even in your highest glory. And in that glory the consciousness that you are nothing and God is all will be cause of your most fervent adoration and deepest, delight. No, Christ’s word simply means, “Be whole,” even as your Father in heaven is whole and complete. Saying that an earthen vessel must be as whole and sound as a porcelain vase does not mean that it must become like that vase. The former costs but a few cents; the latter is paid for with gold. It only means that as the vase is whole as a vase, so rust the earthen vessel be whole as an earthen vessel.

Hence Christ’s word means: There are rents in your being the edges are chipped; you are injured and damaged by sin. This must not be so. There may be no break in your being, nor should defect mar your completeness. Behold, as your Father in heaven is unbroken, so must you be wholly sound, unbroken, and perfect. That is, as God remained perfect as God, so must you remain whole and complete as man, a creature in the hand of your Creator.

But generally, it is not so understood. The current view is as follows: The first step in holiness is conflict with sin. Second, sin becomes weak. Third, sin is almost overcome. Fourth, sin is entirely cast out. Then only, the higher sanctification sets in, and the whole ladder is being climbed; higher and higher, ever more holy; until holiness reaches the clouds.

Of course, those who accept these fancies can not think of Adam otherwise than as created on a low plane of holiness and called to attain higher sanctification. But if there is but one sanctification, i.e., dying to sin and making the broken nature whole, then higher sanctification regarding Adam is out of the question. To Adam’s holiness nothing can be added. He would have known his Creator, heartily loved Him; and livid with Him in eternal happiness to glorify and praise Him, in ever-increasing consciousness; but all this would not have added anything to his righteousness and holiness. To suppose this would betray a lack of, understanding concerning holiness. Thus love is confounded with holiness; righteousness with life; state with condition; word with being; and the very foundations are, wrenched from their place.

Yea, worse. Souls are severed from Jesus. For he that fails to understand original righteousness can not understand how Christ <pb n=“251”/> is given us of God for righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. He desires Jesus most assuredly. But how? “Jesus finds the sinner sick and perishing by the wayside. He puts him on His animal, and takes him to the inn, where He pays for him until he is restored.” Hence always the same representation as tho, after being redeemed, one must still seek for a righteousness and holiness which by constant progress will only gradually be attained.

If this is correct then Christ is not our righteousness, sanctification, nor redemption; at the most, He is a Friend supporting and strengthening us in our efforts to attain righteousness and holiness. No; if the Church is to glory once more in the comforting and blessed confession that in Christ it possesses now absolute righteousness, holiness, and redemption, it must first begin by understanding original righteousness, i.e., that Adam can not love, can not live in blessed fellowship with God, except he be first perfectly righteous and completely holy.


<div2 title=“Second Chapter. The Sinner to be Wrought Upon”>

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Second Chapter



<div3 title=“XI. Sin Not Material”>


Sin Not Material.


“Sin is lawlessness.”—1 John iii. 4 (R. V.).


What did sin blunt, corrupt, and destroy in God’s image-bearer Adam?

Altho we can touch this question but lightly, yet it may not be slighted. It is evident that, for the right understanding of the Spirit’s work regenerating anal restoring the sinner, the knowledge of his condition is absolutely necessary, the mend must fit the rend. The wall must be rebuilt where the breach is made. The healing balm must suit the nature of the wound. As the disease is, §o must also be the cure. Or stronger still, as is the death so must be the resurrection. The fall and the rising again are interdependent.

Generalities are useless in this respect. Ministers who seek to uncover and expose the man of sin by simply saying that men are wholly lost, dead in trespasses and sin, lack the cutting force which alone can lay open the putrefying sores of the heart. These serious matters have been treated too lightly. Hence by ignoring general and shallow statements we simply return to the tried and proven ways of the fathers.

We begin with pointing to one of the principal errors of the present time, viz., that of a resuscitated Manicheism.

It would be very interesting to present in a condensed form this sparkling and fascinating heresy to the Church of to-day. The immediate effect would be the discovery of the origin or the family likeness of much pernicious teaching that is brought into the <pb n=“253”/> Church under a Christian name, and by believing men. But this is impossible. We confine ourselves to a few features.

The mission of divine truth in this world is not to wanton with its wisdom, but to expose it as a lie. Divine Wisdom does not compromise with the speculations and delusions of worldly wisdom, but calls them folly and demands their surrender. In the Kingdom of truth, light and darkness are pronounced opposites. Hence the Church, in coming in contact with the learning and philosophy of the Gentile world, carne into direct and open conflict with it.

Compared to Israel, the heathen world was wonderfully wise, learned, and scientific; and from her scientific standpoint, she looked down with deep contempt and infinite condescension upon the foolishness of, Christianity. That foolish, ignorant, and unlettered Christianity was not only false, but beneath their notice, unworthy to be discussed. In Athens the good-natured people had for these unthinking men and their absurd babbling a Homeric smile, and the sinister ridiculed them with bitter satire. But neither the one nor the other ever seriously considered the matter, for it was unscientific.

And yet, after all, that stupid Christianity carried the day. It made progress. It obtained influence, even power. At last the great minds and geniuses of those days began to feel attracted to it; until, after a conflict of nearly a century, the hour came when the heathen world was compelled to come down from its proud self-conceit, and acknowledge that ignorant, unlettered, and unscientific Christianity. The lively preaching of these Nazarenes had drowned the disputations of those dry philosophers. Soon the stream of the world’s life passed by their schools, and flowed into the channel of the wonderful and inexplicable Jesus. Even before the Church was two centuries old, proud heathendom discovered that, mortally wounded, its life was in jeopardy.

Then under the appearance of honoring Christianity, with cunning craftiness Satan vitally injured it, injecting poison into its heart. In the second century three learned and complicated systems, viz., Gnosticism, Manicheism, and Neo-Platonism, tried with one gigantic effort to smother it in the mortal embrace of their heathen philosophies.

When the cross was planted on Calvary, two empires existed in heathendom: one in the West, containing Rome and Greece, and the other in the East, with its centers in Babylon and Egypt. In <pb n=“254”/> each of these centers, Babylon and Athens, there were men of rare mental powers, comprehensive learning, and profound wisdom. Both centers were swayed by a worldly and heathen philosophy; altho its character in both was different. And from these centers the effort proceeded to drown Christianity in the waters of their philosophy. Neo-Platonism tried to accomplish this in the West; Manicheism in the East; and Gnosticism in the center.

Manes was the man who conceived that magnificent, fascinating, and seducing system which bears his name. He was a profound thinker, and died about the year ayo. He was a genial, pious’, and seriously, minded man; he confessed Christ. It was even the aim, and object of his zeal to extend the Lord’s Kingdom. But one thing annoyed him: the endless conflict between Christianity and his own science and philosophy. He thought there were points of agreement and contact between the two, and their reconciliation was not impossible. To bridge the chasm seemed beautiful to him. One might walk to the heathen world, and in its brilliant philosophies discover many elements of divine origin; and returning to Christianity lead some serious, heathens to the cross of Christ. The profound glory of the Christian faith, filled, him with enthusiasm; yet he remained almost blind for the inherent falsehood of heathen philosophy. And as both lay mingled in his soul, so it was his aim to devise a system wherein both should be interwoven, and transformed into a brilliant whole.

It is impossible here to introduce his system, which shows that Manes had thought out every deep question of vital importance, and with comprehensive eye had measured all the dimensions of his cosmology. All that we can do is to show how this system led to false ideas of sin.

This was caused by his mistaken notion that the word “flesh” refers only to the body; while Scripture uses it as referring to sin, signifying the whole human nature, which does not love the things that are above, but the things of the flesh. Flesh in this sense refers snore directly to the soul than to the body. The works of the flesh are twofold: one class, touching the body, are the sins related to fornication and lust; the other, touching the soul, consist of sins connected with pride, envy, and hatred. In the sphere of visible things it finishes its image wits: shameless fornication; in the realm of invisible things it ends with stiff-necked pride.

Scripture teaches that sin does not originate in the flesh, but in <pb n=“255”/> Satan, a being without a body. Corning from him it crept first into man’s soul, then manifested itself in the body. Hence it is unscriptural to oppose “flesh” and “spirit” as “body” and “soul.” This Manes did; and this is the object of his system in all its features. He taught that sin is inherent in matter, in the flesh, in all that is tangible and visible. “The soul,” he says, “is your friend, but the body your enemy. The successful resistance of the excitement of the blood and the palate would free you from sin.” In his own Eastern environment he saw much more carnal sin than spiritual; and deceived by this he closed his eyes for the latter, or accounted for it as caused by the excitement from evil matter.

And yet Manes was quite consistent, which, giant-thinker that he was, could not be otherwise. He arrived at this singular conclusion, essential to his system of inventions, that Satan was not a fallen angel, not a spiritual, incorporeal being, but matter itself. Hid in matter was a power tempting the soul, and that power was Satan. This explains how Manes could offer the Church such a singular and anti-scriptural doctrine.

Manes’s system bordered on materialism. The materialist says that our thinking is the burning of phosphorus in the brain; and that lust, envy, and hatred are the result of a discharge of certain glands in the body. Virtue and vice are only the result of chemical processes. In order to make a man better, freer, and nobler, we should send him to the laboratory of a chemist, rather than to school or church. And if it were possible for the chemist to lift the man’s skull, and subject his cells and nerves to the necessary chemical process, then vice would be conquered, and virtue and higher wisdom would effectually sway him.

In a similar way Manes taught that as an inherent and inseparable power sin dwells in the blood and muscles, and is transmitted by them. He exhorted to eat certain herbs, as a means to overcome sin. There were, so he taught, animals, but chiefly plants, into which had penetrated a few redeeming and liberating particles of light from the kingdom of light which opposed evil; by eating these herbs the blood would absorb these saving particles of light, and thus the power of sin would be broken. In fact, the church of Manes was a chemical laboratory, in which sin was opposed by material agencies.

This shows the logical consistency of the system, and the weakness of the men who, having adopted the false notion of material <pb n=“256”/> sin, try to escape from its tight hold upon them. But they can not, for, altho discarding the draperies belonging to the system as unsuitable to our Western mode of thinking, they adopt his whole line of theories, and thus falsify not only the doctrine of sin, but almost every other part of the Christian doctrine.

And yet it is only in the doctrine of inherited sin that this error is so conspicuous that it can not escape detection:

It is argued: By virtue of his birth man is a sinner. Hence every child must inherit sin from his parents. And since an infant in the cradle is ignorant of spiritual sin, and without spiritual development, the inherited sin must hide in his being, transmitted with the blood from the parents. And this is pure Manicheism, in that it makes sin to be transmitted as a power inherent in matter.

The Confession of the Reformed churches, speaking of inherited sin, says, in article xv.


“We believe that, through the disobedience of Adam, original sin is extended to all mankind; which is a corruption of the whole nature, and an hereditary disease, wherewith infants themselves are infected even in their mother’s womb, and which produceth in man all sorts of sin, being in him as a root thereof; and therefore is so vile and abominable in the sight of God, that it is sufficient to condemn all mankind. Nor is it by any means abolished or done away by baptism; since sin always issues forth from this woful source, as water from a fountain: notwithstanding it is not imputed to the children of God unto condemnation, but by His grace and mercy is forgiven them. Not that they should rest securely in sin, but that a sense of this corruption should make believers often to sigh, desiring to be delivered from the body of this death. Wherefore we reject the error of the Pelagians, who assert that sin only proceeds from imitation.”


It is apparent, therefore, that the Reformed churches positively acknowledge inherited sin; acknowledge also that the child inherits sin from the parents; even calls this sin an infection, which adheres even to the unborn child. But—and this is the principal thing—they never say that this inherited sin is something material, or is transmitted as something material. The word infection is used metaphorically, and therefore is not the proper expression for the thing which they wish to confess. Sin is not a drop of poison which, like a contagious disease, passes from father to child. No; the transmission of sin remains in our confession an unexplained mystery, only symbolically expressed.

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But this does not satisfy the spirits of the present dad. Hence the new school of Manicheists which has arisen among us.

Entangled in the meshes of this heresy are they who deny the doctrine of inherited guilt; who entertain false views of the sacraments, holding that in Baptism the poison of sin is at least partly removed from the soul, and that in the communion of the Holy Supper the sinful flesh absorbs a few particles of the glorified body; and lastly, who advocate the ridiculous efforts to banish demoniac influences from rooms and vacant lots. All this is foolish, unscriptural, and yet defended by believing men in our own land. O Church of Christ, whither art thou straying?


<div3 title=“XII. Sin Not a Mere Negation”>

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Sin Not a Mere Negation.


“I see another law in my members, warring against, the law of my mind.”—Rom. vii. 23.


Dr. Böhl’s theory, that sin is a mere loss, default, or lack, is an error almost as critical as Manicheism.

This should not be misunderstood. This theory does not deny that the sinner is unholy, nor that he ought to be holy. It says two things: (1) that there is no holiness in the sinner; but—and this indicates the real character of sin—(2) that there ought to be holiness in him. A stone does not hear, nor a book see; yet the one is not deaf, nor the other blind. But the man who lost both, hearing and seeing is both; for to his being as a man both are essential. A chair can not walk; yet it is not lame, for it is not expected to walk. But the cripple is lame, for walking belongs to his being. A horse, is not holy, neither is it a sinner. But man is a sinner, for he is unholy, and holiness belongs to his being; an unholy man is defective and unnatural. Sin, says St. John, “Is unrighteousness,” non-conformity to the law, or, literally, lawlessness, anomy. Hence sin appears only in beings subject to the divine, moral law, and consists in non-conformity to that law.

Thus far this view presents only clear, pure truth; and every effort to give sin positive, independent entity contradicts the Word and leads to Manicheism, as may be seen in the otherwise fervent and conscientious Moravian Brethren.

Scripture denies that sin has a positive character implying that. it has independent being. Independent being is either created or uncreated. If uncreated, it must be eternal, and this is God alone. If created, God must be its Creator; which can not be, for He is not sin’s Author. Hence Scripture does not teach that the power of evil inheres in matter, but in Satan. And what is Satan? Not <pb n=“259”/> an evil substance, but a being intended for, and endued with holiness; who abandoned himself to unholiness, in which he entangled himself hopelessly, becoming absolutely unholy. The doctrine of Satan opposes the false notion that sin has entity. The idea that sin is a power, in the sense of a faculty exercised by an independent being, is inconsistent with Scripture.

So far we heartily agree with Dr. Böhl, and acknowledge that he has maintained the old and tried conviction of believers, and the positive confession of the Church.

But from this he infers that, before and after the fall, Adam remained the same, with this difference only, that after the fall he lost the splendor of righteousness in which he had walked hitherto. So far as his powers and being were concerned, he remained the same. And this we do not accept. It would make man like a lamp brightly burning but soon extinguished, when it became a dark body. Or like a fireplace radiant with the glow and heat of fire this moment, cold and dark the next. Or like a piece of iron magnetized by the electric current, which gives it power to attract; but the current withdrawn it ceases to be a magnet. When the light was blown out, the lamp remained uninjured. When the fire died, the hearth remained what it was before. And when the electric fluid left the iron, it was iron still.

And so says Dr. Böhl regarding man. As the current passes through the iron and magnetizes it, so did the divine righteousness pass, through Adam and make him holy. As the lamp shines when lighted by the spark, so did Adam shine when touched by the spark of righteousness. And as the hearth is aglow with the fire, so was Adam radiant with the righteousness created in him. But now sin comes in. That is, the lamp goes out, the hearth becomes cold, the magnet is mere iron again. And man stands robbed of his splendor, dark and unable to attract. But for the rest he remained what he was. Dr. Böhl says distinctly that man remained the same before and after the fall.

And with this we do not agree. As a sinner he was still man, undoubtedly, but man as the fathers confessed at Dordt (3d and 4th, Head of Doctrine, art. xvi.): “That man by the fall did not cease to be a creature endowed with understanding and will, nor did sin, which pervaded the whole race of mankind, deprive him of the human nature, but brought upon him depravity and spiritual death.” Dr. Böhl’s statement, “Wenn wir die Creatur aus jenem Stande <pb n=“260”/> hin ausgetreten denken; so bleibt diese, Creatur intact,”[24] directly contradicts this pure confession of the Reformed churches.

No, the creature did not remain intact, but sin so seriously injured him that he became corrupt even unto death. And tho we acknowledge that sin has no real being in itself, yet with equal decision we confess, with our church, that its workings are by no means merely negative, nor exclusively privative, but most assuredly very positive.

Scripture and our best theologians (Rivet, Wallaeus, and Polyander by name, in their Synopsis) teach this so positively that it is almost unimaginable how Dr. Böhl could reach any other conclusion. Wherefore we are inclined to believe that on this point he agrees with the confession of the orthodox churches, but that he represents this matter in such a strange manner for the sake of something else and for an entirely different reason.

If we may be frank, we would represent Dr. Böhl’s course of reasoning as follows. “My teacher, Dr. Köhlbrugge, used to oppose strenuously the men that proudly say to the unconverted: Touch me not, for I am holier than thou. He used to emphasize the fact that the child of God, considered for a moment out of Christ, lies in the midst of death, just as much as the unconverted. Hence regeneration does not change man in the least. Before and after regeneration he is exactly the same, with this difference only, that the converted man believes and by his faith walks in reflected righteousness. And if this be so, then regarding the fall the reverse is true; that is, before and after the fall man as such remained the same; the only change was that in the fall he left the righteousness in which he stood before.”

Of course we may be mistaken, but we dare surmise that in this Way Dr. Böhl was tempted to this strange representation, and even to declare, as Rome teaches, that desire in itself is no sin; something which the Reformed Church on the ground of the Tenth Commandment has always opposed.

In fact, the question regarding the fall and the restoration is the same. If the restoration does not affect our being, then neither can the fall have affected it. If redemption means only that a sinner is set in the light of Christ’s righteousness, then the fall can mean no more than that man stepped out of that light. The two <pb n=“261”/> belong together. As it was in the fall, so it must be in the restoration. A man’s confession regarding redemption will, if he be consistent, tell what his confession is—regarding the fall.

Hence if Dr. Köhlbrugge had confessed that the restoration leaves our being unchanged and only translates us into a sphere of righteousness, then it should be conceded that he also represented the fall as leaving man and his nature intact. And this is the very thing which we can not concede. Dr. Köhlbrugge has uncovered the actual corruption of our nature so forcibly and positively that we will never believe that according to his confession the fall left our being and nature intact. Neither can we concede that, according to his confession, in the restoration our being is left unchanged, even tho he connected that change, very rightly, with the mystic union and with the dying to sin in death.

If he had actually intended to teach what many of his followers allege that he did teach, then we would call his tendency very definitely erroneous. But since we can not interpret him without taking into account the misrepresentations which he so strongly opposed, and especially since his confession concerning the corruption of our nature was so complete, we maintain that he did not teach what many of his followers offer in his name.

Hence our way is in the very opposite direction. Dr. Böhl says in other words: “Dr. Köhlbrugge, in his doctrine of redemption, starts from the idea that redemption leaves the sinner essentially unchanged; hence neither can sin have affected him essentially.” While, on the contrary, we say: “The confession of Köhlbrugge regarding the corruption of our nature is so complete that he could not but confess that in the fall, and therefore in the restoration, our nature was changed.”

But be that as it may, this is sure, that, according to the word and the constant doctrine of our Church, sin, altho it is essentially and exclusively privative and lacking independent existence, is yet in its consequences positive and in its workings destructive.

Our nature did not remain unchanged, but it became corrupt; and corruption is the significant word which indicates the fatal, positive effects which resulted from this loss of life and light.

A plant needs light to flourish; light excluded, it not only languishes, but soon withers, decays, and at last mildews; and this is, corruption. Cancer and smallpox are not merely loss of health; <pb n=“262”/> but have a positive action, which destroys the tissues, creates morbid growth, and corrupts the body. A corpse is not merely a lifeless body, but the seat of dissolution and corruption. In like manner we are conscious that sin is not merely the deprivation of holiness, but we feel its fearful activity, corruption, and dissolution which destroy. Strongest proof is the fact that we do not joyfully welcome God’s grace entering the heart, but with our whole nature oppose it. There is conflict which would be impossible if that deprivation and loss had not developed evil which opposes God.

This corruption does not stop until the body is dissolved into its original constituents. We do not know what became of the bodies of Moses, Enoch, and Elijah. The Scripture makes exceptions. Christ did not see corruption, and believers living at the Lord’s return will escape bodily dissolution. But all others, millions upon millions, will sicken and die; and return to the dust. Physical disease and death are types of soul-corruption which mere words fail to express.

Scripture and experience, show clearly that Satan is not merely bereaved, emptied, and lacking, but that he causes a positive, corrupting activity to proceed from him. And so, the in less degree, the soul has become corrupt; not only in the sense of being dark instead of light, chilled instead of warm, but that this deprivation has resulted in positive destruction and corruption. Cold is loss of heat, which on reaching the freezing-point causes positive injury to the body. And such is sin. As to its being, it is loss, deprivation, and nakedness. And these cause in body and soul a destructive working which affects man’s whole nature, binding him with the fetters of corruption, altho he ceases not to be man.

We reconcile sin’s privative being with its positive working as follows: depriving the ceaseless activity of man’s nature of, correct guidance, it runs in the wrong direction, and wrests and destroys itself.


<div3 title=“XIII. Sin a Power in Reversed Action”>

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 Sin a Power in Reversed Action.

If ye live after the flesh ye, shall die.”—Rom. viii. 13.


Altho sin is originally and essentially a loss, a lack, and a deprivation, in its working it is a positive evil and a malignant power.

This is shown by the apostolic injunction not only to put on the new man, but also to put off the old man with his works. The well-known theologian Maccovius, commenting on this, aptly remarks: “This could not be enjoined if sin were merely a loss of light and life; for a mere lack ceases as soon as it is supplied.

If sin were merely a loss of righteousness, nothing more would be needed than its restoration, and sin would disappear. The putting off of the old man, or the 1aying down of the yoke of sin, etc., would be out of the question. The light has only to dispel the soul’s darkness, and its health will be restored. But experience shows that after we are enlightened, and the Holy Spirit has entered our heart, there is still a fearful power of evil in us; and this together with the oft-repeated command not only to accept the righteousness of God which is by faith, but also to put off, to lay aside, to be separate from all that is evil, proves sin’s positive character and evil power in individuals and in society, in spite of its privative character.

Hence the Church confesses that our nature has become corrupt, which of course refers us back to the divine image. Our nature did not disappear, nor cease to be our nature, but in its orignal features and organs it remained the same; the divine image was not lost, not even partly lost, but remained stamped upon every man, and will remain even in the place of eternal destruction sin because he can not divest himself of his nature except by annihilation. But this being impossible, he must retain it as man and in man’s nature. Wherefore Scripture teaches long after the fall that the sinner is created after the image of God. But concerning the <pb n=“264”/> effects of its features in the fallen human nature, the very opposite is true: these features have totally disappeared; the ruins which remain speak at the most only of the glory and beauty which have perished.

Hence the two meanings of the divine image should no longer be confounded. Forasmuch as it lies in our nature it will remain evermore; so far as its effects upon the quality, i.e., the condition, of our nature are concerned, it is lost. The human nature can be corrupted, but not annihilated. It can exist as nature, even tho its former attributes be lost, and replaced by opposite workings.

Our fathers discriminated between our nature’s being and its well-being. In its being it remained uninjured and unharmed, i.e., it is still the real, human nature. But in its condition, i.e., in its attributes, workings, and influences, in its well-being it is wholly changed, and corrupt. Tho a poisoned insect-sting destroys the sight, yet the eye remains. So is the human nature; deprived of its luster, checked in its normal activity, internally sore and foul, yet it is the human nature.

But it is corrupted by sin. It is true man hag retained the power to think, will, and feel, besides many glorious talents and faculties, even genius sometimes; but this does not touch the corruption of his nature. Its corruption is this, that the life which should be devoted to God and animated by Him is devoted with downward tendencies to earthly things. And this reversed action has changed the whole organism of our being.

If the divine righteousness were essential, to human life, this could not be so; but it is not. According to Scripture, death is not annihilation. The sinner is dead to God, but in this very death throbs and thrills his life to Satan, to sin, and to the world: If the sinner had no sinful life, Scripture could never say, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth,” for it is impossible to mortify that which is dead already.

Let not similarity of sound deceive us. Human life is indestructible. When the soul is active in conformity to the divine law, Scripture says that the soul lives; if not, it is dead. This death is the wages of sin. But for this reason man’s nature does not cease to work, to use its organs, to exert its influence. This is the life of our members which are in the earth—our sinful life, the inward festering of evil in our corrupt nature; for this reason it must be mortified. Hence since sin does not stop our nature from <pb n=“265”/> breathing, working, feeding, but it causes these activities, which under the sway of the divine law did run well and were full of blessing, to go wrong and be corrupt.

The mainspring of a watch when detached from its pivot does not stop it immediately; but, being uncontrolled, it turns the wheels so rapidly as to ruin the mechanism. In some respects human nature resembles that watch. God has endowed it with power, life, and activity. Controlled by His law it worked well, and in harmony with His will. But sin deprived it of that control, and, while these powers and faculties remain, they run the wrong way, and destroy the delicate organism. If this condition lasted only for a moment, and the sinner were immediately restored to his original state, it could not lead to a positive evil. But sin lasts a long time; sixty centuries already. Its pernicious influence has its effects; a secondary disease after the primary; accumulations of sinful dregs, and increase of festering sores. The threads of our, nature’s woof pull awry. Everything wrenches itself out of joint. And, since this secondary activity continues unchecked, its pernicious working becomes more and more critical.

What causes a felon? A sliver in the finger slightly checks the circulation. But the blood continues to circulate, trying to overcome the obstacle. The additional pressure against the walls of the capillaries produces more friction, and raises the temperature. The surrounding tissue swells, the delicate blood-vessels contract, the friction increases, and the boil throbs. Altho this is but the continued normal action of the circulation, yet it causes positive evil. There is a local congestion; poisonous matter inflames the healthy tissue, and the parts are thoroughly diseased.

And such is sin’s course. The action of our powers continues, but in the wrong direction. This causes disorder, and irregularities, which inflame our nature toward evil. This sinful inflammation creates unnatural and wicked deformations, which excite the tissues of the soul to a morbid growth, compared by Scripture to foul matter. And from this unholy marsh poisonous gases rise continually throughout our entire nature. Thus the whole economy is disordered. Having run away from the divine law without discipline, body and soul become unruly. Hence, incited by its own inherent action, it involves itself more deeply and runs farther away from God. As a train that is derailed destroys itself by its very speed, so does man, having left the track of the divine law, <pb n=“266”/> compass his own rdin by the inherent impetus and working. Nothing more is needed. Destruction results necessarily from the very life of our nature.

Hence the sinner is without knowledge, the feelings axe perverted, the will is paralyzed, the imagination polluted, the desires are impure, and all his ways, tendencies, and outgoings are at once evil; not in our eyes, perhaps, but because everything fails to meet the demands of God, who wills that everything should meet Him at the terminus of the road, i.e., to be with Him and in Him, making His glory the final, end of all things.

And this makes many things sinful, unrighteous, and wicked that we consider fair and beautiful. Not our taste, but God’s, decides what is right or wrong. He that wishes to know what that taste is, let him learn it from the law of God. That law is standard and plummet. But whatever the sinner seeks or desires to please God, he will not do this; e.g., he may be perfectly willing to hang his coat on the wall and do it gracefully, but not on the nail that God has struck in the wall of our life; everywhere else, but not there. Thus everything in him becomes evil, his entire nature corrupt, incapable of any good, inclined to all evil, yea, prone to hate God and his neighbor. The deed may not be born, but the very inclination and desire are sin.

Like the Romish and some Lutheran theologians, Dr. Böhl denies this. He teaches that there was this desire in holy Adam and even in Christ; not indulged, but held in with bit and bridle—as tho God had created man with this ravenous, animal of desire in his heart, while He endowed him at the same time with the power to restrain it. To keep this desire in constant check would have been man’s greatest excellence.

But this is not according to Scripture. Nothing shows that holy Adam had any desire for the things he saw. The possibility of desire was created only by the prohibition: “Of the tree of knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat.” And even after that we do not discover a trace of desire in him. Such eager looking at the fruit was not witnessed until Satan had inwardly incited Eve not to eat of the fruit, but through it to become like God. This is the first desire awakened in man’s heart, and that only after his eye was opened to see that the tree was good for food and pleasant to the eye.

In the righteous state Adam was filled with peace, harmony, and <pb n=“267”/> divine success; without a trace of the anxiety necessarily springing from the task of restraining a dangerous monster. And in the, heavenly glory it will not be an endless desire to restrain desire, but a complete deliverance from desire; not the suction of a great deep in our bottomless heart, but all its depths filled with, the love of God.

The commandment “Thou shalt not covet” is absolute. The Lord Jesus was a total stranger to covetousness. He never desired what God withheld. In Gethsemane’s terrible dénouement He desired, yet not to receive a gift, but to retain His own, i.e., when under the curse not to be forsaken of His God.


<div3 title=“XIV. Our Guilt”>

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Our Guilt.[25]


“Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”—Rom. v. 12.


Sin and guilt belong together, but may not be confounded or considered synonymous, any more than sanctification and righteousness. It is true guilt rests upon every sin, and in every sin there is guilt, yet the two must be kept distinct. There is a difference between the blaze and the blackened spot upon the wall caused by it; long after the blaze is out the spot remains. Even so with sin and guilt. Sin’s red blaze blackens the soul; but long after sin is left behind, the black mark upon the soul continues.

Hence it is of the greatest importance that the difference between the two be clearly understood, especially since confounding sin and guilt must lead to confounding justification and sanctification, much to the injury of the earnestness of the Christian life.

If there were but one man on earth, he might sin against himself, but he could not be in debt to others. And if, in accordance with modern theology, there were no living God, but only an idea of good, he might sin against the idea of good, and be exceedingly bad, but he could not owe God anything.

Men owe God because He lives, exists, never departs, forever abides; and because from moment to moment they must transact business with Him. With men we open accounts at will; and the firms in town with which we do so we will owe, but those with which we do not deal we will never owe. Many apply this to God, under the mistaken notion that if they have no dealings with God they can not owe Him anything and have nothing to do with Him. To them He is non-existing; how, then, could they be in debt to Him?

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But He does exist. It is not left to our choice to have dealings with Him or not. No; in all our affairs, at all times and under all circumstances, we must deal and do deal with Him. There is no business transacted from which He is excluded. In all things whatever we do, He is the most interested. In all our dealings and enterprises He is the Preferred Creditor and Senior Partner, with whom we must settle the final account. We may bury ourselves in Sahara, or go down to the bottom of the ocean, but our account with Him never ceases. We can never get away from Him. Working with head, heart, or hand, we open an account with God; and while we can deceive other partners and withhold part of the accounts from them, He is omniscient, He knows the most secret items, He keeps account of the smallest fraction, charging it to us; and before we have begun our reckoning, He has already finished it and laid it before us.

Considering this, we realize what it is to be debtors to God; four while at every moment, under all circumstances, and in all transactions we are obliged to pay Him the whole profit, we never do it, at least not in full. Hence every act of head, heart, or hand creates an item of debt, which we withhold from Him through being either unwilling or unable to pay.

If God were not, or we were not related to Him, we would be sinners, but not debtors. If a few years ago the floods at Krakatoa had engulfed all Java, as was feared, would it not have canceled all our debts to Java firms? Or suppose that the Patriotic Party in China once more came into power, and the Emperor decreed to close the empire against all nations, so that during a whole lifetime it was impossible to settle business with Chinese firms. Would this not cancel all the debts owing to China? Hence if God should cease to be or dissolve every tie binding us to Him, all our debts would at once be obliterated. But this is impossible; the tie that binds us to Him can not be broken. Our debt to Him remains; we can not cancel it; and our thinking that we can cancel it does not alter the fact.

God created us for Himself, and that creates our indebtedness to Him. If He had simply created us for the pleasure of creating us, as a boy blows soap bubbles for his entertainment, and for the rest did not care what became of us, there could be no debt. But He did create us for Himself, with the absolute charge, in all things, at every moment, and under all circumstances, to lay life’s gain <pb n=“270”/> upon the altar of His name and glory. He does not allow us to live three days out of every ten for Him, and the rest for ourselves; in fact, He doe’s not release us for a single day or moment. He demands the gain of our existence for His glory, unconditionally, always and evermore. He planned and created us for this. Thus He claims us. Hence, being our Lord and Ruler, He can not forego the last farthing of life’s gain; and since we never have rendered Him, the tribute, we are absolutely His debtors.

What money is among men, love is to God. He says to you and me and every man “As you thirst for gold, so do I thirst for love. I, your God, want your love, your whole heart’s love. This is My due. This I claim. This debt I can not cancel. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” The fact that we do not render Him this love, or render it unholily and fraudulently, makes us His debtors perpetually.

We know that this is called the juridical conception, and that in these effeminate days men desire to escape from the tension of the right; wherefore the ethical conception is lauded to the skies. But this whole sentiment springs directly from a lie. This opposition against the juridical conception sets God at naught or ignores Him. Even without believing in God, one can dream of an ideal of holiness, according to the ethical conception, and strive against sin with inward thirst after holiness. But with only an ideal to incite him, there can be no room for right, no debt to God; for one can not owe an ideal, but only a living person. But when I acknowledge the living God, and that always and in all things I have to do with Him, then He has righteous claims upon me which I have violated, and which must be satisfied. Hence the juridical conception comes first.

The ethical idea is: “I am sick; how can I become well?” The juridical idea is., “How can God’s violated right be restored?” The latter is therefore of primary importance. The Christian must not first consider himself, but God. It wounds the very heart of the Reformed confession when the pulpit aims at sanctification without zeal for justification. Dr. Köhlbrugge’s chief merit lay in this, that for God’s sake he grieved over this neglect, and with powerful hand stemmed the tide of despising God’s right, saying to church and individual: “Brethren, justification first.”

To say, “Oh, if I were only holy, my indebtedness to God would <pb n=“271”/> not much trouble me,” sounds very nice, but is deeply sinful. God’s children desire to be holy as the children of vanity, desire riches, honor and glory—i.e. it is always a desire for ourselves, our own ego, in ourselves to be what we are not. And the Lord God is left out. It is the Pelagian regulating his relation to God according to his own satisfaction. In fact it is sin, tho gilded, against the first and highest commandment.

Surely the soul’s deep longing after holiness is good and right, but only after the question is settled; “How can I be restored to my right position before God, whose rights I have violated?” If this is our chief concern, then and then only do we love the Lord our God more than ourselves, Then the prayer for holiness will follow as a matter of course; not from the selfish desire to be spiritually enriched, but from the soul’s deep longing nevermore to violate the divine right.

This is deep and far-reaching, and many will deem it harsh. Yet we may not hold it back. The unmanly and sickly Christianity now vaunted is not that of the fathers and of the godly of all ages and of the apostles and prophets. The Lord must be First and Highest; instead of being honored, His law is dishonored when, in the pursuit of holiness, God’s right is forgotten. Even among men it is called dishonest when, with debts unpaid, a man goes to America only to make his fortune; and we would say to him: “Honestly to pay your debts is more honorable than merely to be successful. And this applies here. God’s child does not enter the kingdom with a cry for success, but to balance his accounts with God.

And this explains the difference between sin and guilt. A burglar repents and returns the stolen treasure. Is he now entitled to freedom? Surely not; but if he fall into the hands of the law, he shall be tried, sentenced, and suffer in prison the penalty of the violated right. Let us apply this to sin. There is a law and God is its Author. Measured by it, transgressions of omission and commission are called sin. But that is not all. The law is not a fetish, nor the formula of a moral ideal, but God’s commandment; “God spake all these words.” God stands behind that law, maintains it, and lays it before us. Hence it is not enough to measure our act by the law and call it sin, but it must also be accounted for to the Lawgiver and acknowledged to be guilt.

Sin is non-conformity of an act, person, or condition to the divine law; guilt, encroachment by act, person, or condition upon the divine <pb n=“272”/> right. Sin creates guilt, because God has a claim upon all our acts. If it were possible to act independently of God, such acts, tho deviating from the moral ideal, would not create guilt. But since every man’s act in every condition stands in account with God, every sin creates guilt. Yet they are not identical. Sin always lies in us and leaves our relation to God untouched; but guilt does not lie in us, but always refers to our relation to God. Sin shows what we are in our antagonism to the moral ideal; but guilt refers to God’s claim upon us and to our denial of that claim.

If God were like a man, this guilt would he compromised. But He is not. His claims are as pure gold, perfectly right; not arbitrary, but based invariably upon a firm and unchangeable foundation. Hence nothing can be deducted from that guilt. According to, the strictest measure the whole remains forever charged for us.

Hence the punishment. For punishment is but God’s act of resisting the encroachment upon His rights. Such encroachments rob God, and would, if persisted in, detract from His divinity. And this can not be if He be God indeed. Hence His majesty operates directly against this encroachment. And this constitutes punishment. Sin, guilt, and punishment are inseparable. Only because guilt pursues sin, and punishment prosecutes guilt, can sin exist in God’s universe. </div3>

<div3 title=“XV. Our Unrighteousness”>

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Our Unrighteousness.


“My Spirit shall not always strive with man.”—Gen. vi. 3.


Before discussing the work of the Holy Spirit in the sinner’s restoration, let us consider the interesting but much-neglected question whether man stood in fellowship with the Holy Spirit before the fall.

If it is true that the original Adam returns in the regenerated man, it follows that the Holy Spirit must have dwelt in Adam as He now dwells in God’s children. But this is not so. God’s word teaches the following differences between the two:

1. Adam’s treasure was losable, and that of God’s children unlosable.

2. The former was to obtain eternal life, while the latter already possess it.

3. Adam stood under the Covenant of Works, and the regenerated under the Covenant of Grace.

These differences are essential, and indicate a difference of status. Adam did not belong to the ungodly that are justified, but was sinlessly just. He did not live by an extraneous righteousness which is by faith, as the regenerated, but shone with an original righteousness truly his own. He lived under the law which says: “Do this and thou shalt live; if not, thou shalt die.”

Hence Adam had no other faith than that which comes by “natural disposition.” He did not live out of a righteousness which is by faith, but out of an original righteousness. The cloud of witnesses in Heb. xi. does not begin with sinless Adam, but with Abel before he was slain.

If every right relation of the soul is one of faith, then original righteousness necessarily included faith. But this is not Scriptural. St. Paul teaches that faith is a temporary grace, which finally enters that higher and more intimate fellowship called “sight.” Faith as a means of salvation is in Scripture always faith in Christ <pb n=“274”/> not as the Son of God, the Second Person in the Trinity, but as Redeemer, Savior, and Surety—in short, faith in Christ and Him crucified. And since “Christ and Him crucified” does not belong to unfallen man, it is incorrect to place Adam in line with the justified sinner as regards faith. Even in the state of righteousness Adam did not live in Christ; for Christ is only a sinner’s Savior, and not a sphere or element in which man lives as man. In the absence of sin, Scripture knows no Christ; and St. Paul teaches that, when all the consequences of sin shall have ceased, Christ shall deliver the kingdom to the Father, that God may be all in all.

Hence Adam and the regenerate are not the same. The difference between their status is most obvious in the fact that out of Christ the latter lies in the midst of death, having no life in himself, as St. Paul says, “Yet not I, but Christ who liveth in me, who loved me and gave Himself for me”; while Adam had a natural righteousness in himself.

The fathers have always strongly emphasized this point. They taught that Adam’s original righteousness was not accidental, supernatural, added to his nature, but inherent in his nature; not another’s righteousness imputed to him and appropriated by faith, but a righteousness naturally his own. Wherefore Adam needed no substitute; he stood for himself in the nature of his own being. Hence his status was the opposite of that which constitutes for the child of God the glory of his faith.

Teachers of another doctrine are moved, consciously or unconsciously, by philosophic motives. The Ethical theory says: “Properly speaking, our salvation is not in the cross, but in Christ’s Person. He was God and Man, hence divine-human; and this divine-human nature is communicable. This being imparted to us, our nature becomes superior in kind, and thus we become the children of God.” This is a denial of the way of faith, and a rejection of the cross and of the whole doctrine of Scripture—a fearful error indeed. Its conclusion is: “First, even in sin’s absence the Son of God would have become man; second, of course sinless Adam lived in the God-man.”

Without assenting to these errors, others imprudently teach that sinless Adam lived by the righteousness of Christ. Let them be careful of the consequences. Scripture allows no theories which obliterate the difference between the Covenant of Works and that of Grace.

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But maintaining the approved doctrine of Adam’s original righteousness as inherent in his nature, and of the divine image as being in-created, the important question arises: Was the fellowship of the Holy Spirit enjoyed by Adam the same as that now possessed by the new-born soul?

The answer depends upon one’s opinion concerning the nature of the original righteousness. Adam’s righteousness was intrinsic. He stood before God as man ought to stand. He lacked nothing but debt. He rendered the Lord all that he owed momentarily; for how long is unimportant. One second is long enough to lose one’s soul forever, and equally long enough to get into the right position before God. Hence Adam possessed a perfect good; for righteousness implies holiness; and both were perfect. Even the least unholiness would have created an immediate deficiency in Adam’s returns to God. And when that unholiness became a fact, that righteousness, was immediately damaged, rent, and broken; the least unholiness causes all at once the loss of all righteousness. Righteousness has no degrees. That which is not perfectly straight is crooked. Right and perfectly right are exactly the same. Not perfectly right is not right.

The question “How Adam was perfectly good” received clearest light from the conflict of the Lutherans Flacius Illiricus and Victorious Strigel. The former maintained that man was essentially righteous.

One’s opinion of sin necessarily depends upon his view of goodness, and vice versa. A realistic nature is inclined to conceive of sin and goodness as material; sin in his opinion is a sort of invisible bacterium, almost perceptible by a powerful microscope. And virtue, goodness, and holiness have equally a tangible, independent existence, measurable and apportionable. This is not so. We may compare the spiritual to the material. What else is symbolism? The Scripture sets the example, comparing sin to a running sore, to a fire, etc.; and goodness to drops of water quenching thirst, becoming a fountain of living water in the soul. Let symbolism retain its honorable place in this respect. But symbolism is the comparison of things dissimilar, hence their identity is excluded. Sin is not something substantial, hence virtue and goodness are not essentially independent.

And yet Flacius Illiricus felt that in this respect there was a difference between sin and virtue. Evil is unsubstantial, because it <pb n=“276”/> is the lack, the default of goodness. But goodness is not the lack, the default of evil. Loss indicates that which ought to be, but which is lacking. Evil never ought to be, hence never can be a lack. But regarding goodness the question is different, viz., whether goodness as an extraneous and independent element was added to the soul, so that it might be said, “Here is the soul, and there is goodness.” And this can not be. As a ray is unthinkable without light, so is goodness without a person from whom it proceeds.

And this tempted Flacius Illiricus to teach that originally man was essentially righteous. Of course he was wrong. What he wanted to attribute to man can be attributed to God alone. Goodness is goodness. God is goodness. Goodness is God. In God being and goodness are one. There is and can be no difference between the two, for God is perfectly good in all respects; hence the faintest separation between God and goodness is utterly unthinkable.

God alone is a simple Being; not as Professor Doedes interprets in his criticism on the Confession, as tho in God there can be no distinction in persons, but that in God there can be no distinction of essence, as between Himself and His attributes. But this is not so in man. We are not simple, and can not be, in the same sense. On the contrary, our being remains, tho all our attributes are changed or modified. A man can be good and ought to be, but without goodness he remains a man; his nature becomes corrupt, but his being remains the same.

Man’s being is either deceitful or truthful, not because his soul is inoculated with the matter of falsehood or of truth, but by a modification of the quality of his being. Inherent goodness has no reference to our being, but only to the manner of its existence. As a joyous or sorrowful expression of countenance is not the result of an external application, but of inward joy or sorrow, so is the soul either good or bad according to the manner of its standing before God.

And this goodness was Adam’s direct inheritance from God. God alone is the overflowing Fountain of all grace; Adam never wrought a particle of good of himself on the ground of which he might have claimed a reward. Eternal life was promised him not as a prize or inherent element, but by virtue of the conditions of the covenant of works. Just as strongly as we oppose the application to sinless Adam of the conditions of the Covenant of Grace, as <pb n=“277”/> tho he lived in Christ, so strongly do we oppose the representation that any virtue, holiness, or righteousness proceeded from Adam not wrought by God in him. To deny this would make sinless Adam a little fountain of some good, and oppose the confession that God alone is the Fountain of all good.

Hence we arrive at this conclusion, that in Adam all goodness was wrought by the Holy Spirit, according to the holy ordinance which assigns to the Third Person in the Trinity the inward operation of all rational beings.

However, this does not imply that before the fall the Holy Spirit dwelt in Adam as in His temple, as He does in the regenerated child of God. In the latter He can only dwell, since the human nature is corrupt and unfit to be His vehicle. But not so with Adam. His nature was created and calculated to be a vehicle of the Holy Spirit’s operations. Hence Adam and the regenerated are similar in this respect, that in both there is no goodness not wrought by the Holy Spirit; but dissimilar, in that the latter can offer only his sinful heart for the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, while Adam’s being underwent His operations without His indwelling, organically and naturally.


<div3 title=“XVI. Our Death.”>

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Our Death.


“You who were dead in trespasses and sin.”—Ephes. ii. 1.


Next in order comes the discussion of death.

There is sin, which is deviation from and resistance against the law. There is guilt, which, is withholding from God that which, as the Giver and Upholder of that law, is due to Him. But there is also punishment, which is the Lawgiver’s act of upholding His law against the lawbreaker. The Sacred Scripture calls this punishment “death.”

To understand what death is, we must first ask: “What is life?

And the answer in its most general form is: “A thing lives if it moves from within.” A man found in the street, leaning against A wall, perfectly motionless, is supposed to be dead; but if he turns his head, or moves his hand, we know that he is alive. The motion, tho almost imperceptible and so feeble that it requires the practised fingers of the physician to detect it, is always the sign of life. The muscles may be paralyzed, tendons and sinews rigid, yet so long as the pulse beats, the heart throbs, and the lungs inhale the air, life is not extinct. In the doubtful cases of drowning, trance, or paralysis, the doubt is not removed, if removed at all, until motion has been observed. Hence we may safely say a body lives if it moves from within.

This can not be said of a clock, for its mechanism lacks inherent, self-moving power. By winding, energy may be stored in its mainspring, but when this is spent the clock stops. But life is not a force added to a prepared organism, mechanically and temporarily, but an energy that inheres in the organism as an organic principle.

Hence it is plain that the human body has no vital principle in itself, but receives it from the soul. The arm is motionless until moved by the soul. Even the functions of circulation, breathing, <pb n=“279”/> and digesting are animated by the soul; for when the soul leaves the body all these functions stop. A body without a soul is a corpse. As physical life depends upon the union of body and soul, so is physical death the result of the dissolution of that bond. As in the beginning God formed the human body out of the dust of the earth anti breathed into its nostrils the breath of life, so that it became a living being, so is the dissolving of that bond, which is death to the body, an act of God. Death is therefore the removal of that wonderful gift, the bond of life. God withdraws the forfeited blessing, and the soul departs in separate disembodiment; while the body, freed as a corpse, is delivered unto corruption.

But this does not finish the process of death. Life and death are awful opposites, embracing body and soul. “Dying thou shalt die” is the divine sentence, which includes the entire person, and not the body only. That which possesses creaturely life can also die as a, creature. Hence the soul, being a creature, can be dispossessed of its creaturely life.

We admit that in another aspect the soul is immortal; but to prevent confusion, we beg the reader to put this fact for a moment out of his mind. Presently we will return to it.

Applying our definition of life to the soul as a living creature, it follows that the soul lives only when it moves, when acts proceed from it, and energies work in it. But its vital principle is not inherent any more than in the body, but comes from without. Originally it was not self-existing, but God gave it an increated vital principle and moving power which He sustained and qualified for work from moment to moment. In this respect Adam differed from us. It is true that in the soul of the regenerated there is a vital principle, but the source of its energy is outside of ourselves in Christ. There is indwelling, but not interpermeation. The dweller and his house are distinct. Hence in the regenerated man life is extraneous, its seat is not in himself. But not so in Adam. Altho the life-principle energizing the soul proceeded from God, yet it was deposited in Adam himself.

To obtain gas from the city’s gas-works is one thing; to manufacture it at one’s own cost, in one’s own establishment, is quite another. The regenerated child of God receives life directly from Christ, who is outside of Him at the right hand of God, through the channels of faith; but Adam had the principle of life within him from the Fountain of all Good. The Holy Spirit had placed it in <pb n=“280”/> his soul, and kept it in active operation; not as something extraneous, but as inherent in and peculiar to his nature.

If Adam’s life originated in the union which God had established between his soul and the life-principle of the Holy Spirit, it follows that Adam’s death resulted from God’s act of dissolving that union whereby his soul became a corpse.

But this is not all. When the body dies it does not disappear; the process of death does not stop there. As a unit it becomes incapable of organic action, but its constituent parts become capable of producing terrible and corrupting effects. Left unburied in a house, the poisonous gases of dissolution breed malignant fevers and cause death to the inhabitants and the community. After this dissolution of flesh and blood, which can not inherit the kingdom of God, the body as such continues to exist, with the possibility of being reanimated and refashioned into a more glorious Body, and of being reunited with the soul.

All this can almost literally be applied to the soul. When a soul dies, i.e., is severed from its life-principle, which is the Holy Spirit, it becomes perfectly motionless and unable to perform any good work. Some things may remain, like loveliness upon the face of the dead; yet, however lovely, it is useless and unprofitable. And as a dead body is incapable of any act and inclined to all dissolution, so is a dead soul incapable of any good and inclined to all evil.

But this does not imply that a dead soul is devoid of all activity, any more than a dead body. As the latter contains blood, carbon, and lime, so does the former possess will, feeling, intelligence, and imagination. And these elements of a dead soul become equally active with still more terrible effects, which are sometimes fearful to behold. But as the dead body by all its activities can never produce anything to restore its organism, so can the dead soul by all its workings accomplish nothing to restore a harmonious utterance before God. All its utterances are sinful, even as the dead body emits only offensive odors.

Yea, the parallel goes still further. A corpse maybe embalmed, stuffed with herbs, and encased as a mummy. Its corruption is invisible, all unsightliness carefully concealed. So do many men embalm the dead soul, fill it with fragrant herbs, and wrap it like a mummy in a shroud of self-righteousness, so that of the indwelling corruption scarcely anything appears. But as the Egyptians by <pb n=“281”/> their embalming never could restore life unto their dead, so can these soul-mummies with all their Egyptian arts never kindle one spark of life in their dead souls.

A dead soul is not annihilated, but continues to exist, and by divine grace can be reanimated to a new life. It continues to exist even more powerfully than the body. The latter is divisible, but the soul is not. Being a unit it can not be divided. Hence soul death is not followed by soul-dissolution. It is the poisonous working of the soul-elements after death that causes a terrible strain, creating in the indivisible soul a vehement desire for dissolution; friction and confusion of elements that cry for harmony and peace; violent excitement kindling unholy fires; but there is no dissolution. Therefore the soul is called immortal, i.e., it can not be divided nor annihilated. It becomes a corpse insusceptible of dissolution, in which the poisonous gases will continue their pestilential work in hell forever.

But the soul is also susceptible of new quickening and animation; dead in trespasses and sin, severed from the life-principle, its organism motionless, incapable, and unprofitable, corrupt and undone, but still a human soul. And God, who is merciful and gracious, can reestablish the broken bond. The interrupted communion with the Holy Spirit can be restored, like the broken fellowship of body and soul.

And this quickening of the dead soul is regeneration.


We close this section with one more remark: The breaking of the bond which causes death is not always sudden. Death from paralysis is almost instantaneous, from consumption slow. When Adam had sinned, death came at once; but so far as the body was concerned, its complete severing from the soul required more than nine hundred years. But the soul died at once, died suddenly; the bond with the Holy Spirit was severed, and only its raveling threads remain active in the feelings of shame.

When we say that soul-death may be less pronounced in one case than in another, we do not mean to imply that while the one is dead the other is only dying. Nay, both are dead, the soul of each is a corpse; but the one is embalmed as a mummy, and the other is in the process of dissolution; or, the conflicting, poisonous, and destructive workings in the soul of the one have just commenced, while in the other they were stimulated and developed by education <pb n=“282”/> and other agencies. These differences among different persons depend upon the divine grace.

Dissolution in a body at the North Pole is checked; in a body under the Equator it is rapidly accomplished. In like manner dead souls are placed in different atmospheres. Hence the differences.


<div2 title=“Third Chapter. Preparatory Grace”>

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Third Chapter.


<div3 title=“XVII. What Is It?”>


What Is It?


“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.”—1 John iii. 14.


It is unnecessary to say that the scope of these discussions does not include the redemptive work as a whole, which in its choicest sense is not of the Holy Spirit alone, but of the Triune God whose royal majesty shines and sparkles in it with excellent glory. It includes not only the work of the Holy Spirit, but even more that of the Father and of the Son. And in these three we see the triune activity of the tender mercies of the Triune God.

These discussions treat only that part of the work which reveals the operation of the Holy Spirit.

The first question in order is that of the so-called “preparatory grace.” This is a question of surpassing importance, since Methodism[26] neglects it and modern orthodoxy abuses it, in order to make the determining choice in the work of grace once more to depend upon man’s free will.

Regarding the principal point, it must be conceded that there is a “gratia præparans,” as our old theologians used to call it, i.e., a preparatory grace; not a preparation of grace, but a grace which prepares, which is in its preparatory workings real grace, undoubted and unadulterated. The Church has always maintained this confession by its soundest interpreters and noblest confessors. It could <pb n=“284”/> not surrender it as long as God is indeed eternal, unchangeable, and omnipresent; but by it must forcibly protest against the untrue representation that God lets a man be born and live for years unnoticed and independent of Himself, suddenly to convert him at the moment of His pleasure, from that hour to make him the object of His care and keeping.

Tho it can not be denied that the sinner shared this delusion because as he cared not for God, why then should God care for him? yet the Church may not encourage him in this ungodly idea. For it belittles the divine virtues, glories, and attributes. Heretics of every name and origin have made the soul’s salvation their chief, study, but almost always have neglected the knowledge of God. And yet every creed begins with: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth”; and the value of all that follows concerning Christ and our redemption depends only upon the correct interpretation of that first article. Hence the Church has always insisted upon a pure and correct knowledge of God in every confession and in every part of the redemptive Work; and has considered it its principal duty and privilege to guard the purity of this knowledge. Even a soul’s salvation should not be desired at the expense of the slightest injury to the purity of that confession;

Regarding the work of preparatory grace, it was before all things necessary to examine whether the knowledge of. God lead been retained in its purity, or whether to favor the sinner it had been distorted and twisted. And tested by this, it can not be denied that God’s care for His elect does not begin at an arbitrary moment, but is interwoven with their whole existence, including their conception, and even before their conception, with the mysteries of that redeeming love which declares: “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” Hence it is unthinkable that God should have left a sinner to himself for years, to arrest him at a certain moment in the midst of his life.

Nay, if God is to remain God and His omnipresent power unlimited, a sinner’s salvation must be an eternal work, embracing his entire existence—a work whose roots are hidden in the unseen foundations of the wondrous mercies which extend far beyond his conception. It can not be denied that a man, converted at twenty-five, was during his godless life the subject of the divine labor, care, and protection; that in his conception and before his birth God’s hand held him and brought him forth; yea, that even in the divine counsel <pb n=“285”/> the work must be traced which God has wrought for him long before his conversion:

The confession of election anal foreordination is essentially the recognition of a grace active long before the, hour of conversion. The idea that from eternity God had recorded a mere arbitrary name or figure, to quicken it only after many centuries, is truly ungodly. Nay, God’s elect never stood before His eternal, vision as mere names or figures; but every soul elect is also foreordained to stand before Him in his complete development, the object in Christ, of God’s eternal pleasure.

Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, which satisfies for the elect, justifying them by His Resurrection, was not accomplished independently of the elect, but included them all. The resurrection is a work of the divine Omnipotence, in which God brings back from the dead not only Christ without His own, but Christ with His own. Hence every saint with clear, spiritual vision confesses that his heavenly Father performs in him an eternal work, not begun only in his conversion, but wrought in the eternal counsel through the periods of old and new covenants; in his person all the days of his life, and which will work in him, throughout eternity. Even in this general sense the Church may not neglect to confess preparatory grace.

However, the question is narrowed when, excluding what precedes our birth, we consider only our sinful life before conversion, or the years intervening between the age of discretion and the hour when the scales fell from our eyes.

During those years we departed from God, instead of coming more closely to Him. Sin broke out more violently in one than in another, but there was iniquity in us all. As often as the plummet was let down beside our soul’s, they appeared out of the perpendicular. And during this sinful period, many hold that preparatory grace is out of the question. They say, “Where sin is, there can be no grace”; hence during those years the Lord leaves the sinner to himself, to return to him when sin’s bitter fruit shall be ripe enough to move him to faith and repentance. They deny not God’s gracious election and foreordination, neither His care for His elect in their birth; but they do deny His preparatory grace during the years of alienation, and believe that His grace begins to operate only, when it breaks forth in their conversion.

Of course there is some truth in this; there is such a thing as <pb n=“286”/> the abandoning of the sinner to iniquity, when God lets a man walk in his own ways, giving him up unto vile passions to do things that are unseemly. But instead of interrupting God’s labor upon such a soul, the very words of Scripture, “to give them up, ““ to give them over” (Rom. i. 24., 28), show that this drifting away upon the current of sin is not without God’s notice. Men have confessed that, if inward sin had not revealed itself, breaking forth in its fury, they would never have discovered the inward corruption nor have cried to God for mercy. The realization of their guilt and the remembrance of their fearful past have been to many saints powerful incitements to labor with strong hands and pitying hearts for the rescue of those hopelessly lost in the same deadly waters from which they had been saved. The remembrance of the deep corruption from which they are now delivered has been to many the most potent safeguard from fancied self-righteousness, proud bearing, and the conceit of being holier than others. Many depths of reconciliation and grace have been discovered and sounded only by hearts so deeply wounded that, for the covering of their guilt, a mere superficial confession of the atoning blood could not suffice. How deeply did David fall; and who ever shouted from mercy’s depths more jubilantly than he? Who impressed the Church’s pure confession more profoundly than Augustine, incomparable among the Church fathers, who from the abyss of his own guilt and inward brokenness had learned to gaze upon the firmament of God’s eternal mercies. Even from this extreme view of man’s sinful way it can not be affirmed that in that way God’s grace was suspended. Light and shadow are here necessarily blended.

And this is not all. Even tho by sin we have forfeited all, and the sinful ego, however virtuous outwardly, has tinctured every action of life with sin, yet this is not all of life. In the midst of it all, life was shaped and developed. The sinner of five-and-twenty differs from the child of three, who by his ugly temper plainly showed his sinful nature. During all those years the child has become a man. That which slumbered in him has gradually manifested itself. Influences have wrought upon him. Knowledge has been mastered and increased. Talents have been awakened and developed. Memory and remembrance have accumulated treasures of experience. However sinful the form, the character has become settled and some of its traits have adopted definite lines. The child has become a man—a person, living, existing, and thinking <pb n=“287”/> differently from other persons. And in all this, so confesses the Church, was the hand of the Omnipresent and Almighty God. It is He who during all these years of resistance has guided and directed His creature according to His own purpose.

Sooner or later the Sun of Grace will rise upon him, and, since much depends upon the condition in which grace shall find him, it is the Lord God Himself who prepares that condition. He prepares it by graciously restraining his character from adopting traits which would prevent him later on from running his course in the kingdom of God, and, on the other hand, by graciously developing in him such character and such features as will appear after his conversion adapted to the task which God intended for him,

And so it is evident that even during the time of alienation God bestows grace upon His elect. Afterward he will perceive how evidently all things have worked together for good, not because he intended it so, but in spite of his sinful intentions, and only because the protecting grace of God was working in and by and through it all. His course might have been altogether different. That it is as it is, and not much worse, he owes not to himself, but to higher favor. Hence, reviewing his life’s dark background, the saint thinks at first that it contains but a night of Satanic darkness; later on, being better instructed, he perceives through that darkness a faint glimmer of divine love.

In fact, in his life there are three distinct periods of thankfulness:

First, immediately after his conversion, when he can think of no other reason of thankfulness than the newly found grace.

Second, when he learns to render thanks also for the grace of his eternal election, extending far behind the first grace.

Lastly, when the darkness between election and conversion being dispelled, he thanks God for the preparatory grace which in the midst of that darkness watched over his soul.


<div3 title=“XVIII. What It Is Not.”>

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What It Is Not.


“We are His workmanship.”—Ephes. ii. 10.


In the preceding article we contended that there is preparatory grace. In opposition to the contemporary deism of the Methodists,[27] the Reformed churches ought to confess this excellent truth in all its length and breadth. But it should not be abused to reestablish the sinner’s free will, as the Pelagians did, and the Arminians after them, and as the Ethicals do now, tho differently.

The Methodist errs in saying that God does not care for the sinner until He suddenly arrests him in his sinful way. Nor may we tolerate the opposite error, the denial of regeneration, the new starting-point in the life of the sinner, which would make the whole work of conversion but an awakening of dormant and suppressed energies., There is no gradual transition; conversion is not merely the healing of disease, or an uprising of what had been suppressed; least of all, the arousing of dormant energies.

As regards his first birth, the child of God was dead, and can be brought to life only by a second birth as real as the first. Generally the person so favored is not conscious of it. In the nature of the case, man is unconscious of his first birth. Consciousness comes only with the years. And the same applies to regeneration, of which he was unconscious until the time of his conversion; and that may be ten or twenty years.

The grounds upon which the Church confesses that a large majority of men are born again before holy Baptism are many indeed; wherefore, in Baptism, it addresses the infants of believers as being regenerate.

And what do the Semi-Pelagians of all times and shades, and the Ethicals of the present time, teach concerning this? They lower the first act of God in the sinners to a sort of preparatory grace, <pb n=“289”/> imparted not only to the elect, but to all baptized persons. They represent it as follows:

First, all men are conceived and born in sin; and if God did not take the first step, all would perish.

Second, He imparts to the children born in the Christian Church a sort of assisting grace, relieving inability.

Third, hence every, baptized person has the power to choose or reject the offered grace.

Fourth, wherefore, out of the many who received preparatory grace, some choose life and others perish.

And this is the confession not of Augustine, but of Pelagius; not of Calvin, but of Castellio; not of Gomarus, but of Arminius; not of the Reformed churches, but of the sects which they have condemned as heretical.

This impious lie, which pervades this whole representation, must be eradicated; and the Methodist brethren deserve our strongest support when with holy enthusiasm they oppose this false system. If this representation be true, then the counsel of God has lost its certainty and stedfastness; then the Mediator’s redemptive work is uncertain in its application; then our passing from death unto life depends in the end upon our own will; and the child of God is robbed of all his comfort in life and death, since his new life may be lost.

It does not avail the Ethical theologians when under many beautiful forms they confess their belief in an eternal election, and that grace can not be lost, and in the perseverance of saints. As long as they do not purge themselves of their principal error—viz., that. in Baptism God so relieves the inability of the sinner that he can choose life of himself—they do not stand on the basis of the Reformed churches, but are directly opposed to it. Nor will they be counted as children of the Reformed household of faith until, without any subterfuge, they confess definitely that preparatory grace does not operate at all, except upon persons who will surely come to life, and who will never be lost again. To suppose that this grace can work in a man without saving him to the uttermost is to break with the doctrine of Scripture and to turn the, back upon a vital feature of the Reformed churches. We do not deny that many persons are lost in whom many excellent powers have wrought. The apostle teaches this very clearly in Heb. vi.: “They may have tasted of the heavenly gift.” But between, God’s work upon them <pb n=“290”/> and that in His elect is a great gulf. The workings in these non-elect have nothing in common with saving grace; hence preparatory grace, as well as saving grace, is altogether out of the question. Surely there is preparatory grace, but only for the elect who will certainly come to life, and who being once quickened will remain so. The fatal doctrine of three conditions—viz., that (1) of the spiritually dead, (2) of the spiritually living, and (3) of men hovering between life and death—must be abandoned. The spread of this doctrine in our churches will surely destroy their spiritual character, as it has done in the ancient Huguenot churches of France. Life and death are absolute opposites, and a third state between them is unthinkable. He that is scarcely alive belongs to the living; and he that has just died belongs to the dead. One apparently dead is living, and he that is apparently living is dead. The boundary-line is a hair’s breadth, and a state between does not exist. This applies to the spiritual condition. One lives, altho he has received no more than the vital germ, and still wanders unconverted in the ways of sin. And he is dead, tho tasting the heavenly gift, so long as life is not rekindled in his soul. Every other representation is false.


Others advance the view that preparatory grace prepares not for the reception of life, but for conversion. And, this is just as pernicious. For then the soul’s salvation depends not upon regeneration, but upon conversion; and this makes the: salvation of our deceased infants impossible. Nay, standing by the graves of our baptized young children, confident of their salvation through the one Name given under heaven, we reject the teaching that salvation depends upon conversion; but confess that it is effected by the divine act of creating in to a new life, which sooner or later manifests itself in conversion.

Preparatory grace always precedes the new life; hence it ceases even before holy Baptism, in infants quickened before being baptized. Hence in a more limited sense, preparatory grace operates only in persons quickened later on in life, shortly before conversion. For the sinner once quickened has received grace, i.e., the germ of all grace; and that which exists can not be prepared.


A third error, on this point, is the representation that certain moods and dispositions must be prepared in the sinner before God <pb n=“291”/> can quicken him; as tho quickening grace were conditioned, upon preparatory grace. The salvation of our deceased infants opposes this also. There were no moods or dispositions in them; yet no theologian will say that they are lost, or that they are saved by another name than the One in whom adults find salvation. No; the sinner needs nothing whatever to predispose him for the implanting of the new life; and, tho he were the most hardened sinner, devoid of every predisposition, God is able at His own time to quicken him. The omnipotence of divine grace is unlimited.

The implanting of the new life is not a moral, but a metaphysical act of God—i.e., He does not effect it by admonishing the sinner, but independently of his will and consciousness; yet despite his will, He plants something in him whereby his nature obtains another quality.

Even the representation, still maintained by some of our best theologians, that preparatory grace is like the drying of wet wood, so that the spark can more readily ignite it, we can not adopt. Wet wood will not take the spark. It must be dried before it can be kindled. And this does not apply to the work of grace. The disposition of our souls is immaterial. Whatever it may be, omnipotent grace can kindle it. And, tho we do not undervalue dispositions, yet we do not concede to them the potentiality of kindling.


For this reason the theologians of the flourishing period of our churches insisted that preparatory grace should not be treated loosely, but in the following order: “The grace of God first precedes, then prepares, and lastly performs (præveniens, præparans, operans)—i.e., grace is always first, never waits for anything in us, but begins its work before there is anything in us. Second, the time before our quickening is not wasted, but during it grace prepares us for our lifework in the kingdom. Third, at the appointed time grace alone quickens us unaided; hence, grace is the operans, the real worker. Hence preparatory grace must never be understood as a means to prepare for the impartation of life. Nothing prepares for such quickening. Life is enkindled, wholly unprepared, not from anything in us, but entirely by the working of God. All that preparatory grace accomplishes is this, that God by it so disposes our life, arranges its course, and directs our development that being quickened by His exclusive act, we shall possess the disposition required for the task assigned to us in the kingdom.

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Our person is like the field wherein the sower is td scatter the seed. Suppose there are two fields in which the seed must be sown; the one has been plowed, fertilized, harrowed, and cleared of stones, while the other lies fallow, uncared for. What is the result? Does the former produce wheat of itself? By no means; the furrows were never so deep and the ground never so rich and smooth, if it receives no seed-grain it will never yield a single ear. And the other, not cultivated, will surely germinate the seed scattered therein. The origin of the wheat sown has no connection with the cultivation of the field, since the seed-grain is conveyed thither from elsewhere. But to the growth of the wheat, cultivation is of greatest importance. And so it is in the spiritual kingdom. Whether great or small, preparatory grace contributes nothing to the origin of life, which springs from the “Incorruptible seed” sown in the heart. But to its development it is of greatest importance.

This is why the Reformed churches so strongly insist upon the careful training of our children. For, altho we confess that all our training can not create the least spark of heavenly fire; yet we know that when God puts that spark into their hearts, kindling the new fife, much will, depend upon the condition in which it finds them.

<div2 title=“Fourth Chapter. Regeneration”>

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Fourth Chapter.


<div3 title=“XIX. Old and New Terminology”>


Old and New Terminology.


“That which is born of the flesh is flesh.”—John iii. 6.


Before we examine the work of the Holy Spirit in this important matter, we must first define the use of words.

The word “regeneration” is used in a limited sense, and in a more extended sense.

 It is used in the limited sense when it denotes exclusively God’s act of quickening, which is the first divine act whereby God translates us from death into life, from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son. In this sense regeneration is the starting-point. God comes to one born in iniquity and dead in trespasses and sins, and plants the principle of a new spiritual life in his soul. Hence he is born again.

But this is not the interpretation of the Confession of Faith, for article 24. reads: “We believe that this true faith, being wrought in man by the hearing of the Word of God and the operation of the Holy Ghost, doth regenerate and make him a new man, causing him to live a new life, and freeing him from the bondage of sin.” Here the word “regeneration,” used in its wider sense, denotes the entire change by grace effected in our persons, ending in our dying to sin in death and our being born for heaven. While formerly this was the usual sense of the word, we are accustomed now to the limited sense, which we therefore adopt in this discussion.

Respecting the difference between the two—formerly the work of grace was generally represented as the soul consciously observed it; while now the work itself is described apart from the consciousness.

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Of course, a child knows nothing of the genesis of his own existence, nor of the first period of his life, from his own observation. If he were to tell his history from his own recollections, he would begin with the time that he sat in his high chair, and proceed until as a man he went out into the world. But, being informed by others of his antecedents, he goes back of his recollections and speaks of his parents, family, time, and place of birth, how he grew up, etc. Hence there is quite a difference between the two accounts.

The same difference we observe in the subject before us. Formerly it was customary, after the manner of Romish scholastics, to describe one’s experience from one’s own recollections. Being personally ignorant of the implanting of the new life, and remembering only the great spiritual disturbance, which led one to faith and repentance, it was natural to date the beginning of the work of grace not from regeneration, but from the conviction of sin and faith, thence proceeding to sanctification, and so on.

But this subjective representation, more or less incomplete, can not satisfy us now. It was to be expected that the supporters of “free will” would abuse it, by inferring that the origin and first activities of the work of salvation spring from man himself. A sinner, hearing the Word, is deeply impressed; persuaded by its threats and promises, he repents, arises, and accepts the Savior. Hence there is nothing more than a mere moral persuasion, obscuring the glorious origin of the new life. To resist this repulsive deforming of the truth, Maccovius, already in the days of the Synod of Dort, abandoned this more or less critical method to make regeneration the starting-point. He followed this order: “Knowledge of sin, redemption in Christ, regeneration, and only then faith.” And this was consistent with the development of the Reformed doctrine. For as soon as the subjective method was abandoned, it became necessary in answer to the question, “What has God wrought in the soul?” to return to the first implanting of life. And then it became evident that God did not begin by leading the sinner to repentance, for repentance must be preceded by conviction of sin; nor by bringing him under the hearing of the word, for this requires an opened ear. Hence the first conscious and comparatively cooperative act of man is always preceded by the original act of God, planting in him the first principle of a new life, under which act man is wholly passive and unconscious.

This led to the distinction of the first and second grace. The <pb n=“295”/> former denoted God’s work in the sinner, creating a new life without his knowledge; while the latter denoted the work wrought in regenerate man with his full knowledge and consent.

The first grace was naturally called regeneration. And yet there was no perfect unanimity in this respect. Some Scottish theologians put it in this way: “God began the work of grace with the implanting of the faith-faculty (fides potentialis), followed by the new grace of the faith-exercise (fides actualis), and of the faith power (fides habitualis). Yet it is only an apparent difference. Whether I call the first activity of grace, the implanting of the “faith-faculty,” or the “new principle of life,” in both instances it means that the work of grace does not begin with faith or with repentance or contrition, but that these are preceded by God’s act of giving power to the powerless, hearing to the deaf, and life to the dead.


For a correct idea of the entire work of grace in its different phases let us notice the following successive stages or milestones:

1. The implanting of the new life principle, commonly called regeneration in the limited sense, or the implanting of the faith-faculty. This divine act is wrought in man at different ages; when, no one can tell. We know from the instance of John the Baptist that it can be wrought even in the mother’s womb. And the salvation of deceased infants constrains us, with Voetius and all profound theologians, to believe that this original act may occur very early in life.

2. The keeping of the implanted principle of life, while the sinner still continues in sin, so far as his consciousness is concerned. Persons who received the life-principle early in life arc no more dead, but live. Dying before actual conversion, they are not lost, but saved. In early life they often manifest holy inclinations; sometimes truly marvelous. However, they have no conscious faith, nor knowledge of the treasure possessed. The new life is present, but dormant; kept not by the recipient, but by the Giver—like seed—grain in the ground in winter; like the spark glowing under the ashes, but not kindling the wood; like a subterranean stream coming at last to the surface.

3. The call by the Word and the Spirit, internal and external. Even this is a divines act, commonly performed through the service of the Church. It addresses itself not to the deaf but to the hearing, <pb n=“296”/> not to the dead but to the living, altho still slumbering. It proceeds from the Word and the Spirit, because not only the faith-faculty, but faith itself—i.e., the power and exercise of the faculty are gifts of grace. The faith-faculty can not exercise faith of itself. It avails us no more than the faculty of breathing when air and the power to breathe are withheld. Hence the preaching of the Word and the inward working of the Holy Spirit are divine, correspondent operations. Under the preaching of the Word the Spirit energizes the faith-faculty, and thus the call becomes effectual, for the sleeper arises.

4. This call of God produces conviction of sin and justification, two acts of the same exercise of faith. In this, God’s work may be represented again either subjectively or objectively. Subjectively, it seems to the saint that conviction of sin and heart-brokenness came first, and that then he obtained the sense of being justified by faith. Objectively, this is not so. The realization of his lost condition was already a bold act of faith. And by every subsequent act of faith he becomes more deeply convinced of his misery and receives more abundantly from the fulness which is in Christ, his Surety.

Concerning the question, whether conviction of sin must not precede faith, there need be no difference. Both representations amount to the same thing. When a man can say for the first time in his life “I believe,” he is at the same moment completely lost and completely saved, being justified in his Lord.

5. This exercise of faith results in conversion; at this stage in the way of grace the child of God becomes clearly conscious of the implanted life. When a man says and feels “I believe,” and does not recall it, but God confirms it, faith is at once followed by conversion. The implanting of the new life precedes the first act of faith, but conversion follows it. Conversion does not become a fact so long as the sinner only sees his lost condition, but when he acts upon this principle; for then the old man begins to die and the new man begins to rise, and these are the two parts of all real conversion.

In principle man is converted but once, viz., the moment of yielding himself to Immanuel. After that he converts himself daily, i.e., as often as he discovers conflict between his will and that of the Holy Spirit. And even this is not man’s work, but the work of God in him. “Turn Thou me, O Lord, and I shall be turned.” <pb n=“297”/> There is this difference, however, that in regeneration and faith’s first exercise he was passive, while in conversion grace enabled him to be active. One is converted and one converts himself; the one is incomplete without the other.

6. Hence conversion merges itself in sanctification. This is also a divine act, and not human; not a growing toward Christ, but an absorbing of His life through the roots of faith. In children of twelve or thirteen deceased soon after conversion, sanctification does not appear. Yet they partake of it just as much as adults. Sanctification has a twofold meaning: first, sanctification which as Christ’s finished work is given and imputed to all the elect; and second, sanctification which from Christ is gradually wrought in the converted and manifested according to times and circumstances. These are not two sanctifications, but one; just as we speak sometimes of the rain that accumulates in the clouds above and then comes down in drops on the thirsty fields below.

7. Sanctification is finished and closed in the complete redemption at the time of death. In the severing of body and soul divine grace completes the dying to sin. Hence in death a work of grace is performed which imparts to the work of regeneration its fullest unfolding. If until then, considering ourselves out of Christ, we are still lost in ourselves and lying in the midst of death, the article of death ends all this. Then faith is turned into sight, sin’s excitement is disarmed, and we are forever beyond its reach.

Lastly, our glorification in the last day, when the inward bliss will be manifest in outward glory, and by an act of omnipotent grace the soul will be reunited with its glorified body, and be placed in such heavenly glory as becomes the state of perfect, felicity.


This shows how the operations of grace are riveted together as the links of a chain. The work of grace must begin with quickening the dead. Once implanted, the still slumbering life must be awakened by the call. Thus awakened, man finds himself in a new life, i.e., he knows himself justified. Being justified, he lets the new life result in conversion. Conversion flows into sanctification. Sanctification receives its keystone through the severing of sin in death. And in the last day, glorification completes the work of divine grace in our entire person.

Hence it follows that that which succeeds is contained in that <pb n=“298”/> which precedes. A regenerate deceased infant died to sin in death just as surely as the man with hoary head and fourscore years. There can be no first without including the second and last. Hence the entire work of grace might be represented as one birth for heaven, one continued regeneration to be completed in the last day.

Wherefore there may be persons ignorant of these stages, which are as indispensable as milestones to the surveyor; but they may never be made to oppress the souls of the simple. He who breathes deeply unconscious of his lungs is often the healthiest.

Touching the question whether the Scripture gives reference to, this arrangement over the old, we refer to the word of Jesus: “Except a man be born of water and the Spirit he can not see the kingdom of God”; from which we infer that Jesus dates every operation of grace from regeneration. First life, and then the activity of life.

<div3 title=“XX. Its Course”>

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Its Course.


“No man can come unto Me, except the Father draw him.”—John vi. 44.


From the preceding it is evident that preparatory grace is different in different persons; and that distinction must be made between the many regenerated in the first days of life, and the few born again at a more advanced age.

Of course, we refer only to the elect. In the non-elect saving grace does not operate; hence preparatory grace is altogether out of the question. The former are born, with few exceptions, in the Church. They do not enter the covenant of grace later on in life, but they belong to it from the first moment of their existence. They spring from the seed of the Church, and in turn contain in themselves the seed of the future Church. And for this reason, the first germ of the new life is imparted to the seed of the Church (which is, alas! always mixed with much chaff) oftenest either before or soon after birth.

The Reformed Church was so firmly settled in this doctrine that she dared establish it as the prevailing rule, believing that the seed of the Church (not the chaff of course} received the germ of life even before Baptism; wherefore it is actually sanctified in Christ already; and receives in Baptism the seal not upon something that is yet to come, but upon that which is already present. Hence the liturgical question to the parents: “Do you acknowledge that, altho your children are conceived and born in sin, and therefore are subject to condemnation itself, yet that they are sanctified in Christ, and therefore as members of His Church ought to be baptized?”

In subsequent periods, less stedfast in the faith, men have shunned this doctrine, not knowing what to make of the words “are sanctified.” This they interpreted to mean that as children of members of the covenant they were counted as belonging to the covenant, and as such were entitled to baptism. But the earnest and <pb n=“300”/> sound common sense of our people has always felt that this mere “Counting in” did not do justice to the full and rich meaning of the liturgy.

And if you should inquire into the meaning of these words of the office of Baptism, “are sanctified,” not of the weaker epigones, but of the energetic generation of heroes who have victoriously fought the Lord’s battles against Arminius and his followers, then you would discover that those godly and, learned theologians, such is Gysbrecht Voetius for instance, never for a moment hesitated to break with these half-way explanations, but spoke out plainly, saying: “They are entitled to Baptism not because they are counted as members of the covenant but because as a rule they actually already possess that first grace; and for this reason, and this reason alone, it reads: ‘That our children are sanctified in Christ, and therefore as members of His body ought to be baptized.’”


By this confession the Reformed Church proved to be in accord with God’s Word and not less with the actual facts. With few exceptions, persons who afterward prove to belong to the regenerate do not begin life with riotous outbreaks of sin. It is rather the rule that children of Christian parents manifest from early childhood a desire and taste for holy things, warm zeal for the name of God, and inward emotions that can not be attributed to an evil nature.

Moreover, this glorious confession gave the right direction to the education of children in our Reformed families, largely retained to, the present time. Our people did not see in their children offshoots of the wild vine, to be grafted perhaps later on, with whom little could be done until converted after the manner of Methodism;[28] but they lived in the quiet expectation and holy confidence that the child to be trained was already grafted, and therefore worthy to be nursed with tenderest care. We admit that, latterly, since the Reformed character of our churches has been impaired by the National Church as a church for the masses, this gold has been sadly dimmed; but its original, vital thought was beautiful and animating. It made God’s work of regeneration precede man’s work; to Baptism it gave its rich development; and it made the work of education, not dependent on chance, cooperate with God.

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Hence we recognize among the rising generation in the Church four classes:

1. All elect persons regenerated before Baptism, in whom the implanted life remains hidden until they are converted at a later age.

2. Elect persons, not only regenerated in infancy, but in whom the implanted life was early manifested and ripened imperceptibly into conversion.

3. Elect persons born again, and converted in later life.

4. The non-elect, or the chaff.


Examining each of these four, with special reference to preparatory grace, we arrive at the following conclusions:

Regarding the elect of the first class, from the very nature of the case preparatory grace has scarcely room here, in its limited sense. In its direct form, it is unthinkable with reference to an unborn or new-born child. In such it is only indirect—i.e., frequently, it pleases God to give such child parents whose persons and nature’s practise a form of sin less outspoken in its war upon grace than other forms of sin. Not as, tho such parents had anything from which the child could be grafted, for that which is born of the flesh is flesh; nothing clean from the unclean; it is always the wild vine waiting for the grafting of the Lord. Nay, the preparatory grace in this case appears from the fact that the child receives from its parents a form of fife adapted to its heavenly calling.

The same applies to the elect of the second class. Altho we concede that the divine call works upon such during their tender years, yet, while it prepares for conversion, it does not prepare for regeneration, which it follows. The call is ineffectual unless the faculty of hearing be first implanted. Only he that has an ear can hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches and to his own soul. Hence, in this case, preparatory grace is scarcely perceptible. Surely there are many agencies that imperceptibly prepare for his conversion; but this is different from a preparing for regeneration, and we speak now only of the latter.

Properly speaking, preparatory grace in its limited sense is applied only to the third class of elect persons. It comprehends their whole life with all its turns and changes, relations and connections, heights and depths, events and adversities. Not as tho all these could produce the slightest germ of life or possibility, of quickening. No; the germ of life can never spring from preparatory grace, <pb n=“302”/> any more than the preparation of ten cradles, of a dozen of clothes baskets, and of closets full of expensive infant-garments can ever juggle a single infant into any of those cradles. The vital spark is produced only by an act of the mighty God, independent of all preparation. But, from its birth, God guards that wild-vine and controls the growth of its wild shoots, so that in the hour of His pleasure, when He shall graft upon it the true vine, it may be all that it ought to be.

And this ends the discussion, for regarding the fourth class, by and by they will be separated from the wheat and blown away by the fan which is in His hand; hence preparatory grace is out of the question.


And from this it is evident that the proper work of the Holy Spirit regarding preparatory grace is scarcely perceptible.

Every feature of this work, so far presented, points directly not to the operation of the Holy Spirit, nor to that of the Son, but almost exclusively to that of the Father. For the circumstances of the child’s birth—i.e., the hereditary character of his family and more especially of his parents, and the future course of his life until the moment of his conversion—belong to the realm of the divine Providence. The appointed place of our habitation, our generation and family, the formation of our immediate environment, the influences previously determined to affect us—all belong to the leadings of God’s providence, ascribed by Scripture to the work of the Father. The Lord Jesus said: “No man can come unto Me, except the Father draw him.” And altho this drawing of the Father has a higher aim and must be spiritually understood, yet it indicates generally that the determining of those things, which afterward regulates their direction and course, is attributed particularly to the First Person.

We notice a work of the Holy Spirit in this matter only as far as He animates all personal life, since He is the Spirit of Life; and as He cooperates with the Father in that special providence which refers to the elect. For, altho in our mind we can analyze the work of grace, yet we may never forget that the eternal reality does not fully correspond to this part of our analysis.

Hence, in the elect, the work of providence and that of grace often flow together, being one and the same. Our Church has tried to express this, in her confession of a general providence which includes <p n=“303”/> all things and all persons, and a special providence which works only in the lives of God’s elect. When thus the operations of Providence adopt a special character regarding the elect but not yet regenerate persons, the Holy Spirit cooperates with the Father and the Son to carry out the counsels of God’s will concerning them.

And this closes the discussion of preparatory grace, and we now proceed to discuss regeneration proper. We might speak of the grace that flows from regeneration and prepares the way for conversion, but this would improperly be called preparatory grace: All that which aims at the awakening of the life still slumbering in the regenerate soul is not preparatory grace, but belongs to the “call.” And altho we would not absolutely condemn the use of the word in that sense, yet neither would we encourage it by our own example.

Let us recapitulate. Physical life is the result of the union of body and soul; the dissolution of this union is physical death, which will, be abolished only when body and soul are reunited. The same applies to things spiritual. Spiritual life results from a union between the soul and the life-principle of the Holy Spirit. Hence sin which annihilates this union causes death. This death can not be overcome until it please the Lord to reunite the son with the Spirit’s life-principle.

Everything that precedes this reunion is preparatory grace. That which effects it is the first grace. i.e., working grace, saving grace, but no longer preparatory grace. When the Holy Spirit begins His work of effecting this union, preparatory grace ceases; hence it does not belong to the proper work of the Holy Spirit.

<div3 title=“XXI. Regeneration the Work of God.”>

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Regeneration the Work of God.


“The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath even made both of them.”—Prov. xx. 12.


“The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath even made both of them.” This testimony of the Holy Spirit contains the whole mystery of regeneration.

An unregenerate person is deaf and blind; not only as a stock or block, but worse. For neither stock nor block is corrupt or ruined, but an unregenerate person is wholly dead and a prey to the most fearful dissolution.

This rigid, uncompromising, and absolute confession must be, our starting-point in this discussion, else we shall fail to understand the claims of regeneration. This is the reason why every heresy that has conceded in one way or other that man has a share, most generally a lion’s share, in the work of redemption, has always begun by calling in question the nature of sin. “Undoubtedly,” they said, “sin is very bad—a terrible and abominable evil; but there is surely some remnant of good in man. That noble, virtuous, and amiable being, man, can not be dead in trespasses and sin. That may be true of some scoundrel or knave behind the bars, or of robbers and unscrupulous murderers; but really, it can not be applied to our honorable ladies and gentlemen, to our lovely girls, roguish boys, and attractive children. These are not prone to hate God and their neighbors, but disposed, with all their heart, to love all men, and render unto God the reverence due unto Him.”

Therefore away with all ambiguity in this matter! This method of smoothing over unpalatable truths, now so much in vogue among the affable people, we can not indorse. Our confession is; and ever shall be, that by nature man is dead in trespasses and sin, lying under the curse, ripe for the just judgment of God, and still ripening for an eternal condemnation. Surely his being, as man, is unimpaired; wherefore we protest against the presentation that <pb n=“305”/> the sinner is in this respect as a stock or block. No; as man he is unimpaired, his being is intact; but his nature is corrupt, and in that corrupt nature he is dead.

We compare him to the body of a person who has died of an ordinary disease. Such a body retains all the members of the human organism intact. There is the eye with its muscles, and the ear with its organs of hearing; in the post-mortem examination heart, spleen, liver, and kidneys appear to be perfectly normal. A dead body may sometimes appear so natural that one is tempted to say: “He is not dead, but sleeping.” And yet, however perfect and natural, its nature is corrupt with the corruption of death. And the same is true of the sinner. His being remains intact and whole, containing all that which constitutes a man; but his nature is corrupt, yea, so corrupt that he is dead; not only apparently, but actually dead; dead in all the variations which can be played upon the term “dead.”

Hence without regeneration the sinner is utterly unprofitable. What is the use of an ear except it hear, or of an eye except it see? Therefore the Holy Ghost testifies: “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made even both of them.” And since in the world of spiritual things deaf ears and blind eyes do not avail anything, the Church of Christ confesses that every operation of saving grace must be preceded by a quickening of the sinner, by an opening of blind eyes, an unstopping of deaf ears—in short, by the implanting of the faculty of faith.

And as the man that sat in darkness can see as soon as his eyes are opened, so we, without moving a hair’s breadth, are translated, from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. “Translated” does not denote here an actual going, nor does “to be translated” denote an actual change of place, but simply life entering into the dead. so that he that was blind can now see.


This wonderful act of regeneration may be examined in two classes of persons: in the infant and in the adult.

It is the safest way to examine it in the infant: not because this work of grace is different in an infant from what it is in an adult, for it is the same in all persons thus favored; but to the conscious observation of an adult the workings of regeneration are so mingled with those of conversion that it is difficult to distinguish the two.

But this difficulty does not exist in the case of an unconscious <pb n=“306”/> child, as, e.g., in John the son of Zacharias and Elizabeth. Such infant has no consciousness to create confusion. The matter appears in a pure and unmixed form. And thus we are enabled to distinguish between regeneration and conversion in an adult. It is evident that in the case of an infant which, like John, is still unborn, there can be nothing but mere passivity—i.e., the child underwent something, but himself did nothing; something was done to him, and in him, but not by him; and every idea of cooperation is absolutely excluded.

Hence, in regeneration, man is neither worker nor coworker; he is merely wrought upon; and the only Worker in this matter is God. And, for this very reason, because God is the sole Worker”in regeneration, it must be thoroughly understood that His work does not begin only with regeneration.

No; while the sinner is still dead in trespasses and sins, before the work of God has begin: in him, be is already chosen and ordained, justified and sanctified, adopted as God’s child and glorified. This is what filled St. Paul with such ecstasy of joy when he said: “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate; and whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified” (Rom. Viii. 29, go). And this is not the recital of what took place in the regenerate, but the glad summing up of the things which God accomplished for us before we existed. Hence our election, foreordination, justification, and glorification precede the new birth. It is true that, in the hour of love when regeneration was to be effected in us, the things accomplished outside of our consciousness were to be revealed to the consciousness of faith; but so far as God was concerned all things were ready and prepared. The dead sinner whom God regenerates is to the divine consciousness a beloved, elect, justified, and adopted child already. God quickens only His dear children.

Of course, God justifies the ungodly and not the righteous; He calls sinners to repentance and not just persons; but it should be remembered that this is spoken from the point of view of our own consciousness of sin. The still unregenerate does not feel himself God’s child, nor that he is justified; does not believe his own election, yea, often gainsays it; yet he can not alter the things divinely wrought in his behalf, viz., that before the supreme bar of justice God declared him just and free, long before he was so declared <pb n=“307”/> before the bar of his own conscience. Long before he believed, he was justified before God’s tribunal, by and by to be justified by faith before his own consciousness.

But, however wonderful and unfathomable the mystery of election may be—and none of us shall ever be able to answer the question why one was chosen to be a vessel of honor, and another was left as a vessel of wrath—in the matter of regeneration we do not face that mystery at all. That God regenerates one and not another is according to a fixed and unalterable rule. He comes with regeneration to all the elect; and the non-elect He passes by. Hence this act of God is irresistible. No man has the power to say; “I will not be born again,” or to prevent God’s work or to put obstacles in His way, or to make it so difficult that it can not be performed.

God effects this gracious work in His own way, i.e., He so royally perseveres that all creatures together could not rob Him of one of His elect. If all men and devils should conspire to pluck a brutal man, belonging to the elect, from His saving power, all their efforts would be mere vanity. As we brush away a spider’s web, so would God laugh at all their commotion. The powerful steam borer pierces the iron plate not more noiselessly and with less effort than silently and majestically God penetrates the heart of whomsoever He will, and changes the nature of His chosen. Isaiah’s word concerning the starry heavens—“Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their hosts by number; He calleth them all by name, by the greatness of His might, for that He is strong in power; not one faileth “may be applied to the firmament in which God’s elect shine as stars: “Because of the greatness of His might, and that He is strong in power, not one faileth.” All that are ordained to eternal life are quickened at the divinely appointed hour.


And this implies that the work of regeneration is not a moral work; that is, it is not accomplished by means of advice or exhortation. Even taken in its wider sense, including conversion, as, e.g., the canons of Dort use it now and then, regeneration is not a moral working in the soul.

It is not simply a case of misunderstanding, the sinner’s will being still uncorrupt, so that it requires only instruction and advice to induce it to choose rightly. No; such advice and admonition <pb n=“308”/> are wholly out of the question regarding the unborn son of Zacharias; and the thousands of infants of believing parents, of whom at Dort it was correctly confessed that they may be supposed to have died in the Lord, i.e., being born again; and regarding those regenerated before Baptism but converted later in life.

For this reason it is so necessary to examine regeneration (in its limited sense) in an infant, and not in an adult, in whom it necessarily includes conversion.

The following reasoning can not be disputed:

1. All men, infants included, are born dead in trespasses and sins.

2. Of these infants many die before they come to self-consciousness.

3. Of these gathered flowers the Church confesses that many are saved.

4. Being dead in sin, they can not be saved without being born again.

5. Hence regeneration does actually take place in persons that are not self-conscious.

These statements being indisputable, it is evident, therefore, that the nature and character of regeneration can be determined most correctly by examining it in these still unconscious persons.

Such an unborn infant is totally ignorant of human language; it has no ideas, has never heard the Gospel preached, can not receive instruction, warning, or exhortation. Hence moral influence is out of the question; and this convinces us that regeneration is not a moral, but a metaphysical act of God, just as much as the creation of the soul of an unborn child, which is effected independently of the mother. God regenerates a man wholly without his foreknowledge.


What it is that constitutes the act of regeneration can not be told. Jesus Himself tells us so, for He says: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou Nearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” And, therefore, it is befitting to investigate this mystery with the utmost discretion. Even in the natural kingdom the mystery of life and its origin is almost entirely beyond our knowledge. The most learned physician is entirely ignorant concerning the manner in which a human life comes into existence. <pb n=“309/> Once existing, he can explain its development, but of the inception that precedes all else he knows absolutely nothing. In this respect he is just as ignorant as the most innocent peasant boy. The mystery can not be penetrated, simply because it lies beyond our observation; it is perceptible only that life exists.

And this applies in stronger sense to the mystery of our second birth. Post-mortem examination can detect the embryo and its locality, but spiritually even this is impossible. Subsequent manifestations are instructive to a certain extent, but even then much is uncertain and unsettled. By what infallible standard can it be determined how much of the old nature enters into the expressions of the new life? Is there no hypocrisy? Are there no conditions unexplained? Are there no obstacles to spiritual development? Hence experience in this respect can not avail; tho pure and simple, it can reveal only the development of that which is, and not the origin of life unborn.

The only source of truth on this subject is the Word of God; and in that Word the mystery remains not only unrevealed, but veiled. And for good reasons. If we were to effect regeneration, if we could add to or take from it, if we could advance or hinder it, then Scripture would surely have sufficiently instructed us concerning it. But since God has reserved this work altogether to Himself, man need not solve this mystery any more than that of his first creation, or that of the creation of his soul.

<div3 title=“XXII. The Work of Regeneration”>

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The Work of Regeneration.


“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.”—2 Cor. v. 17.


In our former article we contended that regeneration is a real act of God in which man is absolutely passive and unable, according to the ancient confession of the Church. Let us now reverently examine this matter more closely; not to penetrate into things too high for us, but to cut off error and to clear the consciousness.

Regeneration is not sacramentally effected by holy Baptism, relieving the sinner’s inability, offering him another opportunity to choose for or against God, as the Ethicals maintain.

Nor is it a mere rectifying of the understanding; nor a simple change of disposition and inclination, making the unwilling willing to conform to the holy will of God.

Neither is it a change of ego; nor, as many maintain, a leaving the ego undisturbed, the personality unchanged, simply putting the evil ego in the light and reflection of the righteousness of Christ.

The last two errors must be refuted and rejected as positively as the first two.

In regeneration a man does not receive another ego; i.e., our being as man is not changed nor modified, but before and after regeneration it is the same ego, the same person, the same human being. Altho sin has terribly corrupted man, his being remained intact. Nothing is lacking. All its constituent parts, that distinguish it from all other beings, are present in the sinner.

Not his being, but his nature became totally corrupt.

Nature and being are not the same. Applied to a steam-engine, being is the engine itself, with its cylinders, pipes, wheels, and Screws; but its nature is the action manifest as soon as steam enters <pb n=“311”/> the cylinder. Applied to man, being is that which makes him man, and nature that which manifests the character of his being and working.

If sin had ruined man’s being, he would be no more man, and regeneration would be impossible. But since his being, his ego, his person remained intact and the deep corruption affected only his nature, regeneration, i.e., restoration of his nature, is possible; and this restoration is effected by the new birth. Let this be firmly maintained. In regeneration we do not receive a new being, ego, or person, but our nature is reborn.

The best and most satisfactory illustration of the manner of regeneration is furnished by the curious art of grafting. The successful grafting of a budding shoot of the cultivated grape upon the wild vine results in a good tree growing upon the wild trunk. This applies to all fruit-trees and flowering plants. The cultivated can be grafted upon the wild. Left to itself, the wild will never yield anything good. The wild pear and the wild rose remain stunted and chary of fruit and blossom. But let the gardener graft a finely flavored pear upon the wild pear, or a beautiful double tea rose upon the wild rose, and the former will yield luscious fruit and the latter magnificent flowers.

This miracle of grafting has always been a wonder to thinking men. And it is a wonder. The trunk to be grafted is absolutely wild; with its wild roots it sucks the saps and forces them into its wild cells. But that little graft has the wonderful power of converting the sap and vital forces into something good, causing that wild trunk to bear noble fruit and rich flowers. It is true the wild trunk vigorously resists the reformation of its nature by its wild shoots below the graft, and if successful its wild nature will forcibly assert itself and prevent the sap from passing through the bud. But by keeping down those wild shoots the sap can be forced to the bud with excellent results. Forcing down the wild trunk, the graft will gradually reach almost to the roots, and we nearly forget that the tree was ever wild.

This clearly represents regeneration so far as this divine mystery can be represented objectively. For in regeneration something is planted in man which by nature he lacks. The fall did not merely remove him from the sphere of divine righteousness, into which regeneration brings him back, but regeneration effects a radical modification in man as man, creating a difference between him <pb n=“312”/> and the unregenerate so great that finally it leads to direct opposites.

To say that between the regenerate and the unregenerate there is no difference is equivalent to a denial of the work of the Holy Spirit. Generally, however, no difference is noticed at first, no more than in the grafted tree. Twins lie in the same cradle; one regenerated, the other not, but we can not see the slightest difference between the two. The former may even have a worse temper than the latter. They are exactly alike. Both spring from the same wild trunk. Dissecting knife nor microscope could detect the least difference; for that which God has wrought in the favored child is wholly spiritual and invisible,— discernible to God alone.

This fact must be confessed definitely and emphatically, in, opposition to those who say that the seed of regeneration is material. This error occupies the same ground as the Manichean heresy in the matter of sin. The latter makes sin a microbe; and this makes the seed of regeneration a sort of perceptible germ of life and holiness. And this falsifies the truth against which, among others; Dr. Böhl has earnestly protested.

The seed of regeneration is intangible, invisible, purely spiritual. It does not create two men in one being, but before and after regeneration there is but one being, one ego, one personality. Not an old and a new man, but one man—viz., the old man before regeneration, and the new man after it—who is created after God in perfect righteousness and holiness. For that which is born of God can not sin. His seed remaineth in him. “Old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.”

Yet the nature of, the ego or personality is truly changed, and in such a way that, putting on the new nature in principle, he still continues to work through the old nature. The grafted tree is not two trees, but one. Before the grafting it was a wild rose, after it a cultivated one. Still the new nature must draw its saps through the old nature; apart from the graft, the trunk remains wild.

Hence before as well as after regeneration we lie in the midst of death, as soon as we consider ourselves outside of the divine seed. Wherefore, trying to avoid one false position, we must be careful not to run into another; trying to escape, the Siamese twinship of the old and the new man, and maintaining the unity of the ego before and after regeneration, we should not begin to teach that <pb n=“313”/> regeneration leaves our person unchanged, that it does not affect the sinner himself, but merely translates him into the sphere of an extraneous righteousness. No: the Scripture speaks of a new creature, another birth, a being changed and renewed. And this can not be reconciled with the notion that the sinner should remain unchanged.


Regarding the question, what it is in the bud that has the potency to regenerate the wild trunk, the best-informed botanist can not discover the fiber or liquid that might have this power. He only knows that every bud has its own nature, and possesses the potency to produce another branch or tree of the same nature by its own formative power.

And this applies to the work of regeneration: In the center of our being, ego, personality rules our nature, disposition, form of being, and existence, imparting its impress, form; character, and spiritual quality to what we are and work and speak. That all-controlling center is by nature sinful and wicked. Under its fairest forms it is but unrighteous. Hence, willingly or unwillingly, we press upon our being, working, and speaking the stamp of unrighteousness. According to age and development this nature of the ego chisels out of the marble of our being an evil and sinful man, corresponding to the image contained in our nature from which it proceeds. In regeneration God performs in this controlling center of our being a wonderful act, converting this nature, this formative force into something entirely different. Consequently our being, working, and speaking are henceforth controlled by another commandment, law of life, and government; and this new formative force chisels another man in us, new and holy, a child of God, created in righteousness.

But this change is not completed at once. The tree grafted in March may remain inactive during that entire month, because, there is as yet no working in its nature. But this is sure: as soon as there is any action it will be according to the new, ingrafted nature.

And so it is here. The new, ingrafted life may lie dormant for a season, like a grain of wheat in the earth; but when it begins to work it will be according to the nature of the new life. Hence regeneration implants the life-germ of the new man, whom it contains in all his completeness, and from which it will proceed as surely as the wheat contained in the seed proceeds from it.

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In order to assist us in our representation of this mystery, the greatest theologian of the Reformed churches has presented the divine plan in regeneration in the following stages:

(1) In His own mind God conceives the new man; whom (2) He modifies according to a particular person, thus creating the new man; (3) He brings the germ of this new man into the center of our being; (4) in which center He effects the union between our ego and this germinating life; (5) in that vital germ God supports the formative power, which at His appointed time He will cause to come forth, by which our ego will manifest itself as a new man.

<div3 title=“XXIII. Regeneration and Faith.”>

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Regeneration and Faith.


“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.”—1 Peter i. 23.


There is a possible objection to what has been said above concerning regeneration. It is evident that God’s Word, and therefore our symbols of faith, offers a modified representation of these things which, superficially considered, seems to condemn our representation. This representation, which does not consider children, but adults, may thus be stated: Among a circle of unconverted persons God causes the Word to be preached by His ambassadors of the cross. By this preaching the call reaches them. If there are elect persons among them, for whom it is now the time of love, God accompanies the outward call with the inward. Consequently they turn from their ways of sin to the way of life. And so they are begotten of God.

Thus St. Peter presents the matter, saying: “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible; by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” And also St. Paul when he declares, “That faith is by the hearing, and the hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. x. y). It fully, harmonizes with what St. Paul writes concerning holy Baptism, which he calls the washing of “regeneration,” for in those days Jew and Gentile were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, immediately after their conversion, by the preaching of the apostles.

For this reason our fathers confessed in their Confession (article a4): “We believe that this true faith, being wrought in man by the hearing of the word of God, and the operation of the Holy Ghost, doth regenerate and make him a new man.” And likewise teaches the Heidelberg Catechism (see question 65): “Such faith proceedeth <pb n=“316”/> from the Holy Ghost, who works faith in our, hearts by the preaching of the Gospel, and confirms it by the use of the sacraments.” And also the canons of Dort, Third and Fourth Heads of doctrine, section 17: “As the almighty operation of God, whereby He prolongs and supports this our natural life, does not exclude, but requires the use of means by which God of His infinite mercy and goodness hath chosen to exert His influence; so also the before-mentioned supernatural operation of God, by which we are regenerated, in no wise excludes or subverts the use of the Gospel; which the most wise God hath ordained to be the seed of regeneration and food of the soul. Wherefore, as the apostles and the teachers who succeeded them piously instructed the people concerning this grace of God, to His glory and the abasement of all pride, and in the mean time, however, neglected not to keep them by the sacred precepts of the Gospel in the exercise of the Word, the sacraments, and discipline; so even to this day, be it far from either instructors or instructed to presume to tempt God in the Church, by separating what He of His good pleasure hath most intimately joined together. For grace is conferred by means of admonitions; and the more readily we perform our duty, the more eminent usually is this blessing of God working in us, and the more directly is His work advanced.”

And now, in order to eradicate every suspicion that we contend against this representation, we declare openly and definitely that we give it our most hearty assent.

We only beg it be considered that in this presentation both Scripture and the symbols of faith always point to the mysterious background, to a wonderful work of God hiding back of it, to an inscrutable mystery without which all this comes to naught.

The canons of Dort describe this mysterious, inscrutable, and wonderful background most elaborately and most beautifully in article i 2, Third and Fourth Heads of Doctrine: “And this is the regeneration so highly celebrated in Scripture and denominated a new creation; a resurrection from the dead, a making alive, which God works in us without our aid. But this is in no wise effected merely by the external preaching of the Gospel, by moral suasion, or such a mode of operation that, after God has performed His part, it still remains in the power of man to be regenerated or not; to be converted or to continue unconverted; but it is evidently a supernatural work, most powerful and at the same time most delightful, <pb n=“317”/> astonishing, mysterious, and ineffable; not inferior in efficacy to creation or the resurrection from the dead, as the Scripture inspired by the Author of this work declares; so that all in whose hearts God works in this marvelous manner are certainly, infallibly, and effectually regenerated, and do actually believe. Whereupon the will thus renewed is not only actuated and influenced by God, but in consequence of this influence becomes itself active. Wherefore, also, man is himself rightly said to believe and repent, by virtue of that grace received.” And also in article r r: “But when God accomplishes His good pleasure in the elect, or works in them true conversion, He not only causes the Gospel, to be externally preached to them, and powerfully illuminates their minds by His Holy Spirit, that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God; but by the efficacy of the same regenerating Spirit, He pervades the inmost recesses of the man; He opens the closed and softens the hardened heart, and circumcises that which was uncircumcised; infuses new qualities into the will, which, tho heretofore dead, He quickens; from being evil, disobedient, and refractory, He renders it good, obedient, and pliable; actuates and strengthens it, that like a good tree it may bring forth the fruits of good actions.” The Heidelberg Catechism points to this, in question 8: “Except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.” And also the Confession, article 22: “We believe that to attain the true knowledge of this great mystery, the Holy Spirit kindleth in our hearts an upright faith, which embraces Jesus Christ with all His merits.”

This mysterious background, which our fathers at Dort called “His pervading the inmost recesses of man by the efficacy of the, regenerating Spirit,” is evidently the same as what we call “the divine operation which penetrates the center of our being to implant the germ of the new life.”

And what is this mysterious working? According to the universal testimony based upon Scripture, it is an operation of the Holy Spirit in man’s innermost being.

Hence the question, whether this regenerating act precedes, accompanies, or follows the hearing of the Word. And, this question should be well understood, for it involves the solution of this seeming disagreement.

We answer: The Holy Spirit may perform this work in the sinner’s heart before, during, or after the preaching of the Word. The <pb n=“318”/> inward call may be associated with the outward call, or it may follow it. But that which precedes the inward call, viz., the opening of the deaf ear, so that it may be heard, is not dependent upon the preaching of the Word; and therefore may precede the preaching.

Correct discrimination in this respect is of greatest importance.

If I designate the whole conscious work of grace from conversion until death, “regeneration,” without any regard to its mysterious background, then I may and must say with the Confession (article 24): “That this faith, being wrought in man by the hearing of the Word, and the operation of the Holy Spirit, doth regenerate him and make him a new man.”

But if I distinguish in this work of grace, according to the claims of the sacraments, between the origin of the new life, for which God gave us the sacrament of holy Baptism, and its support, for which God gave the sacrament of the holy Supper, then regeneration ceases immediately after man is born again, and that which follows is called “sanctification.”

And discriminating again between that which the Holy Spirit wrought in us consciously and unconsciously, then regeneration designates that which was wrought in us unconsciously, while conversion is the term we apply to the awakening of this implanted life in our consciousness.

Hence God’s work of grace runs through these three successive stages:

1st. Regeneration in its first stage, when the Lord plants the new life in the dead heart.

2d. Regeneration in its second stage, when the new-born man comes to conversion.

3d. Regeneration in its third stage, when conversion merges into sanctification.

In each of these three God performs a wonderful and mysterious work in man’s inward being. From God proceed quickening, conversion, and sanctification, and in each God is the Worker: only with this difference, that in the quickening He works alone, finding and leaving man inactive; that in conversion He finds us inactive, but makes us active; that in sanctification He works in us in such a manner that we work ourselves through Him.

Describing it still more closely, we say that in the first stage of regeneration, that of quickening, God works without means; in the <pb n=“319”/> second stage, that of conversion, He employs means, viz., the preaching of the Word; and in the third stage, that of sanctification, He uses means in addition to ourselves, whom He uses as means.


Condensing the foregoing, there is one great act of God which re-creates the corrupt sinner into a new man, via., the comprehensive act of regeneration, which contains three parts—quickening, conversion, and sanctification.

For the ministry of the Word it is preferable to consider only the last two, conversion and sanctification, since this is the appointed means to effect them. The first, regeneration, is preferably a subject of private meditation, since in it man is passive and God only active; and also because in it the majesty of the divine operation is most apparent.

Hence there is no conflict or opposition. Referring, according to the Confession, article 17, only to conversion and sanctification, the unstopping of the deaf ear as preceding the hearing of the Word is not denied. And penetrating into the work which antedates conversion, “In which God works in us without our aid” (article r 2 of the canons of Dort), it is not denied, but confessed, that conversion and sanctification follow the unstopping of the deaf ear, and that, in the proper sense, regeneration is completed only at the death of the sinner.

Do not suppose that we make these two to conflict. In writing a biography of Napoleon it would be sufficient simply to mention his birth, but one might also mention, more in particular, the things that took place before his birth. Just so in this respect: I may refer either to the two parts of regeneration, conversion and sanctification, or I may include also that which precedes conversion, and speak also of the quickening. This implies no antagonism, but a mere difference of exactness. It is more exhaustive, with reference to regeneration, to speak of three stages—quickening, conversion, and sanctification; altho it is customary and more practical to speak only of the last two.

Our purpose, how8ver, calls for greater completeness. The aim of this work is not to preach the Word, but to uncover the foundations of the truth, so as to stop the building of crooked walls upon the foundation-stone, after the manner of Ethicals, Rationalists, and Supernaturalists.

Exhaustiveness in treatment requires to ask not only, “How and <pb n=“320”/> what does the quickened sinner hear?” but also, “Who has given him hearing ears? “

And this is all the more to be insisted upon because our children must not be ignored in this respect. At Dort, in 1618, our children were taken into account, and we may not deny ourselves this pleasant obligation.

And herein lies a real danger. For to speak of the little ones without considering the first stage of regeneration—i.e., the quickening—causes confusion and perplexity from which there is no escape.

Salvation depends upon faith, and faith upon the hearing of the Word; hence our deceased infants must be lost, for they can not hear the Word. To escape this fearful thought it is often said that the children are saved by virtue of the parents’ faith—a misunderstanding which greatly confused our entire conception of Baptism, and made our baptismal form very perplexing. But as soon as we distinguish quickening, as a stage of regeneration, from conversion and sanctification, the light enters. For since quickening is an unaided act of God in us, independent of the Word, and frequently separated from the second stage, conversion, by an interval of many days, there is nothing to prevent God from performing His work even in the babe, and the apparent conflict dissolves into beautiful harmony. Moreover, as soon as I regard my still unconverted children as not yet regenerate, their training must run in the direction of a questionable Methodism.[29] What is the use of the call so long as I suppose and know: “This ear can not yet hear”?

Touching the question concerning. “faith,” we are fully prepared to apply the same distinction to this matter. You have only to discriminate between the organ or the faculty of faith, the Power to exercise faith, and the working of faith. The first of these three, viz., the faculty of faith, is implanted in the first stage of regeneration—i.e., in quickening; the power of faith is imparted in the second stage of regeneration—i.e., in conversion; and the working of faith is wrought in the third stage—i.e., in sanctification. Hence if faith is wrought only by the hearing of the Word, the preaching of the Word does not create the faculty of faith.

Look only at what our fathers confessed at Dort: “He who works in man both to will and to do produces both the will to believe <pb n=“321”/> and the act of believing also” (Third and Fourth Heads of Doctrine, article 14).

Or to express it still more strongly: when the Word is preached, I know it; and when I hear it and believe it, I know whence this working of faith comes. But the implanting of the faith-faculty is an entirely different thing; for of this the Lord Jesus says: “Thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh; and whither it goeth”; and as the wind, so is also the regeneration of man.

<div3 title=“XXIV. Implanting in Christ”>

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Implanting in Christ.


“Having become one plant with Him.”—Rom. vi. 5.


Having discussed regeneration as God’s act wrought in a lost, wicked, and guilty sinner, we now examine the more sacred and delicate question: How does this divine act affect our relation to Christ?

We consider this point more important than the first, since every view of regeneration that does not do full justice to the “mystical union with Christ” is anti-Scriptural, eradicates brotherly love, and begets spiritual pride.

The holy apostle declares: “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.”[30] The idea that a saint cats have life outside of the mystical union with Immanuel is but a fiction of the imagination. The regenerate can live no life but such as consists in union with Christ. Let this be firmly and strongly maintained.

The Scriptural expressions, “one plant with Him”[31] and “branches of the Vine,” which must be taken in their fullest significance, are metaphors entirely different from those which we use. We are confined to metaphors which express our meaning by analogy; but they can not be fully applied nor express the being of the thing; hence the so-called third term of the comparison. But the figures used by the Holy Spirit express a real conformity, a unity of thought divinely expressed in the spiritual and visible world. Hence Jesus could say: “I am the true Vine,” that is, “every other vine is but a figure. The true, the real Vine am I, and I alone.”

Being exceedingly sober and choice in His metaphorical speech, the Lord Jesus does not say that a branch is grafted into the vine, <pb n=“323”/> simply because this is not done in nature, i.e., in the creation of God. In John xv., Jesus does not even touch upon the question of how one becomes a branch. That is the work of the Father. My Father is the Husbandman. In John xv. 3 he speaks only of a person who not abiding in Him withers and will be burned.

Even Rom. vi. 5 does not speak of coming to Jesus, and Rom. xi. 17-25 only partly. The former calls it to become one plant with Him, but does not tell “how”; and “grafting” is not even mentioned. And the latter, speaking of broken olive-branches, and of wild olive-branches grafted upon a good olive, and lastly of broken branches restored to the original olive, makes no reference whatever to the implanting of individuals in Christ, as we will soon prove.

And yet the figure is only partly applicable. Indeed, in Rom. xi., St. Paul, with his characteristic boldness of speech and style, for comparison’s sake reverses God’s work in nature; for while in reality the cultivated bud is grafted on the wild trunk, he makes in this instance the wild bud to be grafted upon the good trunk. A bold stroke indeed and very profitable to us, for by it he makes us see clearly and distinctly the general implanting in Christ. But that is all.

For, notice it well, the figure is not to be pressed too far. It is a mistake to make it refer to the regeneration of the individual sinner. For a person once implanted in Christ can not be severed from Him: “No man can pluck them out of My hand”; “Whom He has justified, them He also glorified.”

And yet, reference is made here to branches which are broken off and which were grafted in again. If this referred to particular individuals, then the Jews, who during the life of St. Paul denied the Lord, must have been regenerate persons who fell away and returned again before they died.

If this had been St. Paul’s meaning, subsequent events would have belied his words, and he would have revoked the whole tenor of his other teachings. But he plainly means that the tribes of Israel, who were in the Covenant of Grace, had lost their position therein by their own fault; yet that even outside of the Covenant they should be preserved throughout the coming ages, and that in the course of history the way would be opened even for them to be, reintroduced into the Covenant of Grace. And this shows that Rom. xi. 17-25 does not teach the regeneration of individual persons, <pb n=“324”/> and that the good olive does not signify Christ, for he that is implanted in Christ can never be severed from Him, and he that is severed from Him never belonged to Him. Do we not believe in the perseverance of saints?

It may be objected that in John xv. reference is made to branches that are cast forth from the vine; to which we answer: first, that this does not remove the difficulty that the apostate Jews of St. Paul’s time were never grafted in again; and second, that with Calvin we hold that Jesus, speaking of the branches, cast forth, had reference to persons who, like Judas, seemed to be implanted; otherwise His own word, “No man can pluck them out of My hand,” can not stand for a moment.

We arrive, therefore, at this conclusion, that neither John xv. nor Rom. xi. has any reference to personal regeneration in its limited sense; while Rom. vi., which speaks of becoming one plant, does, not introduce the idea of ingrafting, nor make the slightest allusion to the manner in which this “becoming one plant” had been accomplished.

It is unnecessary to say that not a few exegetes judge the translation, “One plant with Him,” incorrect, omitting the words italicized. We do not express here an opinion regarding this rendering; but it shows clearly that Rom. vi. has nothing to say concerning the manner in which our union with Christ is effected.

In fact, Scripture never applies the figure of grafting to regeneration. Rom. xi. treats of the restoration of a people and nation to the covenant of grace; Rom. vi. speaks only of a most intimate union; and John xv. never alludes to a wild branch which became good by being planted in Christ. These figures set forth the union with Christ, but teach nothing concerning the manner in which this union is effected. Scripture is utterly silent concerning it; and since there is no other source of information, mere human inventions are utterly useless. Even Christian experience does not throw any light upon it, for it can not teach anything which, Scripture has not taught already; and again, we can easily perceive the union with Christ where it exists, but we can not see it where it does not exist, or where it is just forming.


And yet this union with Christ must be strongly emphasized. The theologians who represent divine truth most purely lay most stress upon this matter. And altho Calvin may have been the most <pb n=“325”> rigid among the reformers, yet not one of them has presented this, unio mystica, this spiritual union with Christ, so incessantly, so tenderly, and with such holy fire as he. And as Calvin, so did all the Reformed theologians, from Beza to Comrie, and from Zanchius to Köhlbrugge. “Without Christ nothing, by this mystical union with Christ all,” was their motto. And even now a preacher’s value is to be strictly measured by the degree of prominence, accorded to the mystical union with Immanuel, in his presentation of the truth. The strong utterance of Köhlbrugge, “One may be born again, one may be a child of God, one may be a sincere believer, yet without this mystical union with Christ he, is nothing in himself, nothing but a lost and wicked sinner,” was always the glorious confession of our churches. In fact, it is what our form for the administration of the Lord’s Supper so well expresses: “Considering that we seek our life outside of ourselves in Jesus Christ, we acknowledge that we lie in the midst of death.”

But it is wrong on this ground to teach—as some of our younger ministers are reported to teach—and derogatory to the work of the Holy Spirit, that regeneration accomplishes nothing in us, and that the whole work is performed completely outside of us as some have said, “That we need not even be converted, for even that has been done for us vicariously by the Lord Jesus Christ.” To say that there is no difference between a regenerate person and an unregenerate is to contradict Scripture and to deny the work of the Holy Spirit. Wherefore we strongly oppose this notion. There is in, deed a difference. The former has entered into the union with Christ, and the latter has not. And upon this union everything depends; it makes a difference in men, as between heaven and hell.

Nor may it be said, on the contrary, “That a regenerate person, even without the union with Christ, is other or better than an unbeliever”; for this puts asunder what God has joined together. Outside of Christ there is in man born of a woman nothing but darkness, corruption, and death.

Hence we firmly maintain the indissoluble oneness of these two: “There is no regeneration without establishing, the mystical union with Christ”; and again: “There is no mystical union with Immanuel but in the regenerate.” These two may never be separated; and on the long way between the first act of regeneration and completed sanctification, the unio mystica may not for a moment be lost sight of.

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The Ethical theologians will probably assent to all that we have said on this subject; and yet, according to our deepest conviction, they have wholly bastardized and misapprehended this precious article of faith. Assuredly they strongly emphasize the union with Christ; they even tell us that they do this more than we, maintaining that it is immaterial whether a man is sound in the Scripture or not so long as he is united with Christ. In that case there is no more need of any formula, confession, articles of faith, or even faith in the Scripture. A prominent Ethical professor at the University of Utrecht has openly declared: “Altho I should lose the entire Scripture, yea, tho the truth of not one of the Gospel narratives could be verified, I would not be in the least affected, for I would still possess union with Christ; and having that, what more can a man desire?” And this has such a pious ring, and taken in the abstract is so true, that many a conscience must agree with it, not having the faintest suspicion of the apostasy from the faith of the fathers contained in it.

If one should ask us whether we do not believe that the soul united with Jesus possesses all that can be desired, we would almost refuse an answer, for he knows better. No, indeed, favored soul, having that you need no more; depart in peace, thrice blessed of God.

But because the mystical union with the Son of God is so weighty and precious an article of faith, we desire that every man should treat it most seriously, and examine whether the union which he says he possesses is actually the same mystical union with the Lord Jesus Christ which the Scripture, promises to the children of God, and which they have enjoyed throughout the ages.

<div3 title=“XXV. Not a Divine-Human Nature”>

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Not a Divine-Human Nature.


“I in them, and they in Me.”—John xvii. 23.


The union of believers with the Mediator, of all matters of faith the most tender, is invisible, imperceptible to the senses, and unfathomable; it escapes all inward vision; it refuses to be dissected or to be made objective by any representation; in the fullest sense of the word it is mystical—unio mystica, as Calvin, after the example of the early Church, called it.

And yet, however mysterious, no man is at liberty to interpret it according to his own notions; in fact, there is need of great vigilance lest under the pious appearance of this mystic love injurious contraband be smuggled into the divine sanctuary. We have therefore raised our voice against the false representations of former mystical sects, and of the Ethical theorists of the present time.

Let us first explain the Ethical teaching on this point.

Their belief starts from the antithesis existing between God and man. God is the Creator, man is a creature. God is infinite, man finite. God dwells in the eternal, and man lives in the temporal. God is holy, and man is unholy; etc. So long as these contrasts exist, so they teach, there can be no unity, no reconciliation, no harmony. And as the pantheistic philosophy used to talk about three stages through which life must run its course—first, that of proposition (thesis), then that of contrast (antithesis), and lastly, that of reconciliation, combination (synthesis)—so the Ethicals teach that between God and man there exist these three: thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.

In the first place, there is God. This is the thesis, the proposition. Opposed to this thesis in God, the antithesis, contrast, appears in man. And this thesis and antithesis find their reconciliation, synthesis, in the Mediator, who is at once finite and infinite, burdened with our guilt and holy, temporal, and eternal.

It is only recently that we quoted the following sentence from <pb n=“328”/> Professor Gunning’s little book, “The Mediator between God and Man” (page 28): “Jesus Christ is the Mediator equally between the Jews and the Gentiles; and also between all things that need reconciliation and mediation; as between God and man, spirit and body, heaven and earth, time and eternity.”


This representation contains the fundamental error of the Ethical theology. It interferes with the boundaries which God has set. It effaces them. It causes all contrasts finally to disappear. And by this very thing, without intending it, it becomes the instrument of spreading the pantheism of the philosophic, school. Not understanding this system, one may be deeply in love with it. This pantheistic ferment is deeply seated in our sinful hearts. The waters of pantheism are sweet, their religious flavor is peculiarly pleasant. There is spiritual intoxication in this cup, and once inebriated the soul has lost its desire for the sober clearness of the divine Word. To escape from the witchery of these pantheistic charms, one needs to be aroused by bitter experience. And once awakened, the soul is alarmed at the fearful danger to which this siren had exposed it.

No; the contrast between God and man must not cease; the contrast between heaven and earth may not be placed upon the same line with that of Jew and Gentile; the contrast between the infinite and finite must not be effaced by the Mediator; time and eternity must not be made identical. There must be brought about a reconciliation for the sinner. That is all, and no more. “To bring about reconciliation” is the work assigned to the Mediator, and that alone. And this reconciliation is not between time and eternity, the finite and the infinite, but exclusively between a sinful creature and a holy Creator. It is a reconciliation that could not have occurred if man had not fallen, necessitated only by his fall; a reconciliation not essential to the being of Christ, but His per accidens, i.e., by something independent of His being.

And since the essence of true godliness is based not in the removal of the divinely appointed boundaries and contrasts, but in a deep reverence for the same; and on this ground the creature as distinguished from the Creator may not feel himself one with, but absolutely distinct from Him, it is clear that this error of the Ethicals affects the essence of godliness.

The early Church discovered this same principle in Origen, and <pb n=“329”/> subsequently in Eutychus; and our fathers of the last century found it in the Hernhutters and sharply opposed it. And only because we lack knowledge and penetration have these Ethical doctrines been able to spread so rapidly here, in Germany, in Switzerland and even in Scotland, their pantheistic tendencies undetected.

And how does this evil affect their Christology? It affects it to such extent that it is entirely different from that of the Reformed churches. Tho they tell us; “We disagree in our views on the Scriptures, but agree in our confession of Christ,” yet this is absolutely untrue. Their Christ is not the Christ of the Reformed churches. Christ, as the Reformed Church according to the Scripture and the orthodox Church of all ages confesses Him, is the Son of God, eternal Partaker of the divine nature, who in time, in addition to the divine nature, adopted the human nature, uniting these two natures in the unity of one person. He unites them in such a way, however, that these natures continue each by itself, do not blend, and do not communicate the attributes of the one to the other. Hence two natures are united most intimately in the unity of one person, but continuing to the end, and even now in heaven, to be two natures each with its own peculiar properties. “He is one not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of, the manhood into God” (Confession of Athanasius, article 35). And again: “He is one not by mixture of substance, but by unity of person” (article 36).

In like manner do we confess in article 19 of our Confession: “We believe that by this conception the person of the Son is inseparably united and connected with the human nature; so that there are not two Sons of God, nor two persons, but two natures united in one single person; yet each nature retains its own distinct properties. As then the divine nature has always remained uncreated, without beginning of days or end of life, filling heaven and earth; so also hath the human nature not lost its properties, but remained a creature, having beginning of days, being a finite nature, and retaining all the properties of a real body. And tho He hath by His Resurrection given immortality to the same, nevertheless He hath not changed the reality of His human nature; forasmuch as our salvation and resurrection also depend on the reality of His body. But these two natures were so closely united in one person that they were not separated even by His death:”

This clear confession, which the orthodox Church has always <pb n=“330”/> defended against the Butychians and Monothelites, and which our Reformed churches in particular have maintained in opposition to the Lutherans and Mystics, is opposed by the Ethical view all along the line. The late Prof. Chantepie de la Saussaye said distinctly in his Inaugural that it was impossible to maintain the, old representation on this point, which was also upheld by our Confession: and that his confession of the Mediator was another. Hence the Ethical wing deviates from the old paths not only in the matter of the Scripture, but also in the confession of the person of the Redeemer. It teaches what the Reformed churches have always denied, and denies what the Reformed churches have always maintained in opposition to churches less correct in their views.

Under the influence which Schleiermacher’s training among the Moravian brethren, and his pantheistic development and Lutheran dogmatics, have exerted upon the Ethicals, a Christ is preached by them who is not the Christ to whom the orthodox Church of all ages has bowed the knee; and whose confession has always been preserved incorrupt by the Reformed, and especially by our national, theologians. For their conclusions are as follows:

1st. That the Incarnation of the Son of God would have taken place even if Adam had not sinned.

2d. That He is Mediator not only between the sinner and the holy God, but also between the finite and the infinite.

3d. That the two natures mix together, and communicate their attributes to each other in such a measure that from Him, who is both God and man, there proceeds that which is divine-human.

4th. That this divine-human nature is communicated to believers also.

This error is immediately recognized by the use of the word divine-human. Not that we condemn its use in every instance. On the contrary, when it refers not to the natures, but to the person, its use is legitimate, for in the one person the two natures are inseparably united. Still it is better in our days to be chary of the word. Divine-human has in the present time a pantheistic meaning, denoting that the contrast existing between God and man did not exist in Jesus, but that in Him the antithesis of the divine and the human was not found.

And this is wholly anti-Scriptural, and results in its final consequences in a pure theosophy. For the actual result is a blending of the two natures: a divine nature in God. a human nature in <pb n=“331”/> man, and a divine-human nature in the Mediator. So that if man had not fallen, the Mediator would nevertheless have appeared in a divine-human nature.

This is a truly abhorrent doctrine. It puts in the place of the Savior from our sins another and entirely different person; the contrasts between the Creator and the creature disappear; the divine-human nature of the Christ is actually placed above the divine nature itself. For the Mediator in the divine-human nature, possesses something that is lacking in the divine nature, viz., its reconciliation with the human.

This shows how much further the Ethicals have departed from the pure confession of the Lord Jesus Christ than is generally believed. According to them there is in the Person of the Mediator a kind of new nature, a kind of third nature, a kind of higher nature, which is called “human-divine.” And the union with Christ is found (not subjectively, but objectively) in the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ pours into us that new, third, higher kind, viz., the divine-human nature. Hence the regenerate are the persons who have received this new, third, higher kind of nature. This has no connection with sin, but would have appeared even in the absence of sin. The reconciliation of sinners is something additional, and does not touch the root of the matter.

The real and principal thing is, that the Mediator between the “finite and the infinite” (to use the very words of Professor Gunning) imparts unto us, who have the lower, human nature, this new, third, higher, divine-human nature.

Not that the human nature is to be removed, and the divine-human nature take its place. No, indeed; but, according to the Ethical theologians, the human nature is originally intended and destined to be thus ennobled, refined, and exalted. As the slip of a plant, under the influence of the sun, develops and produces by and by choice flowers, so does the human nature develop and unfold itself under the influence of the Sun of Righteousness into, this higher nature.

That this must be accomplished by means of regeneration is on account of sin. If there had been no fall in Paradise, and no sin after the fall, there would have been no regeneration, and our nature’s lower degree would have passed over spontaneously into that higher, divine-human nature. And this is, in the circles of the Ethicals, the basis of that much-lauded unio mystica with the Christ.

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The invisible church is, according to their view, that, circle, of men into whom this higher and nobler tincture of life has been instilled, and others not so favored still stand without. Hence their lack of appreciation of the visible churches; for does not the divine-human tincture of life determine this circle of itself? Hence their preference for the “unconscious”; conscious confession and expression of thought is immaterial; the principal thing is to be endowed with this new, higher, more refined, divine-human nature. This explains their generally lofty bearing toward men not sharing their opinions. They belong to a sort of spiritual aristocracy; they are of nobler descent, acquainted with more refined forms, living a higher life, from which with pitying eyes they look down upon those who do not dream their dreams of the higher life-tincture.

Let it suffice here only to say that the Reformed churches can not indorse this representation of the unio mystica, but must positively reject it.

<div3 title=“XXVI. The Mystical Union with Immanuel”>

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The Mystical Union with Immanuel.


“Christ in you the hope of glory.”—Col. i. 27.


The union of believers with Christ their Head is not effected by instilling a divine-human life-tincture into the soul. There is no divine-human life. There is a most holy Person, who unites in Himself the divine and the human life; but both natures continue unmixed, unblended, each retaining its own properties. And since there is no divine-human life in Jesus, He can not instil it into us.

We do heartily acknowledge that there is a certain conformity and similarity between the divine nature and the human, for man was created after the image of God; wherefore St. Peter could say, “That we become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter i. 4); but, according to all, sound expositors, this means only that unto the sinner are imparted the attributes of goodness and holiness, which he originally possessed in his own nature in common with the divine nature, but which he lost by sin.

Compared with the nature of material things, and with that of animals and of devils, there is indeed a feature of conformity and similarity between the divine and human natures. But this may not be understood as obliterating the boundary between the divine nature and the human. And, therefore, let this glorious word of St. Peter no longer be abused in order to justify a philosophic system which has nothing in common with the soberness and simplicity of Holy Scripture.

What St. Peter calls “to become partaker of the divine nature is called in another place, to become the children of God. But altho Christ is the Son of God, and we are called the children of God, this does not make the Sonship of Christ and our sonship to stand on the same plane and to be of the same nature. We are but the adopted children, altho we have another descent, while He is the actual and eternal Son. While He is essentially the eternal Son, partaker of the divine nature, which in the, unity of His Person He <pb n=“334”/> unites with the human nature, we are merely restored to the likeness of the divine nature which we had lost by sin.

Hence as “to be adopted as a child,” and “to be the Son forever” are contrasts, so are also the following: “to have the divine nature in Himself,” and “to be only partakers of the divine nature.”

The friend who shares a bereaved mother’s mourning is not bereaved himself, but through love and pity he has become partaker of that mourning. In like manner, accepting these great and precious promises, believers become partakers of the divine nature, altho in themselves wholly devoid, of that nature., Partaker does not denote what one possesses in himself, as his own, but a partial communication of what does not belong to him, but to another.

Hence this glorious, apostolic word should no longer be used in pantheistic sense. As it is unlawful to say that we are the essential children of God, but must humbly confess, through Christ, to be His adopted children, so it is not lawful to say that by faith we become in ourselves bearers of the divine nature; but we must be satisfied with the confession that through the fellowship of love, God makes us partakers of the vital emotions of the divine nature, so far as our human capacities are able to experience them.


This brings us back to the unio mystica with Christ, which, altho a great and impenetrable mystery, ought to be sufficiently defined to keep us from falling into error. We mention, therefore, its vital points and thus embody our confession concerning it:

1st. The first point is, that the Lord Jesus does not require us to be purified and sanctified in order to be united to His Person.

Jesus is a Savior not of the righteous, but of sinners. And for this reason He has adopted the human nature: not as the Baptist teaches, by receiving from heaven a newly created body, like the Paradise body of Adam, but by becoming partaker, as the little children, of our flesh and blood. And the same is true of His union with believers. He does not wait until they are pure and holy, then to be spiritually betrothed unto them; but He betroths Himself unto them that they may become pure and holy. He is the rich Bridegroom, and the soul the poverty-stricken bride. In the shining robes of His righteousness He comes and, finding her black, unsightly, and in her native defilement, He says not, “Get thyself clean, wise, and rich, and as a rich bride I will betroth thee unto Me”; but, “I take thee just as thou art. I say unto thee, in thy <pb n=“335”/> blood, Live. Tho thou art poor, betrothing thee, I will make thee partaker of Myself and of My treasure. But a treasure of thine own thou shalt never possess.”

This point should be firmly established. The Lord Jesus unites unto Himself not the righteous, but sinners. He marries not the pure and the spotless, but the polluted and the unclean.

When the holy apostle Paul speaks of a bride whom he will present without spot or wrinkle, he has reference to something entirely different not to His betrothal with the individual, but to the marriage of the Lord Jesus with His Church as a whole. So long as the Church continues in the earth, separated from Him, she is His bride, until in the fulness of time, the separation ended, He will introduce her to the rich and full communion of the united life in glory.


2d. The second point to which we call attention is the time when this union begins.

To say that this unio mystica is the result of faith alone is on13 partly correct. For Scripture teaches very distinctly that we were already in the Lord Jesus when He died on Calvary, and when He arose from the dead; that we ascended with Him unto heaven; and that for eighteen centuries we have been seated with Him at the right hand of God. Hence we must carefully distinguish between the five stages in which the union with Immanuel unfolds itself:

The first of these five stages lies in the decree of God. From the very moment that the Father gave us to the Son, we were really His own, and a relation was established between Him and us, not weak and feeble, but so deep and extensive that all subsequent relations with Immanuel spring from this, fundamental root-relation alone.

The second stage is in the Incarnation, when, adopting our flesh, entering into our nature, He made that preexisting, essential relation actual; when the bond of union passed from the divine will, i.e., from the decree, into actual existence. Christ in the flesh carries all believers in the loins of His grace, as Adam carried all the children of men in the loins of his flesh. Hence, not figuratively nor metaphorically, but in the proper sense, Scripture teaches that when Jesus died and arose we died and arose with Him and in Him.

The third stage begins when we ourselves appear not in our <pb n=“336”/> birth, but in our regeneration; when the Lord God begins to work supernaturally in our souls; when in love’s hour Eternal Love conceives in us the child of God. Until then the mystic union was hid in the decree and in the Mediator; but in and by regeneration the person appears with whom the Lord Jesus will establish it. However, not regeneration first and then something new; viz., union with Christ, but in the very moment of completed regeneration that union becomes an internally accomplished fact.

This third stage must be carefully distinguished from the fourth, which begins not with the quickening, but with the first conscious exercise of faith. For, altho in regeneration the faculty of faith was implanted, it may for a long time remain inactive; and only when the Holy Spirit causes it to act, producing genuine faith and conversion in us, is the union with Christ established subjectively.

This union is not the subsequent fruit of a higher degree of holiness, but coincides with the first exercise of faith. Faith which does not live in Christ is no faith, but its counterfeit. Genuine faith is wrought in us by the Holy Ghost, and all that He imparts to us He draws from Christ. Hence there may be an apparent or pretended faith without the union with Christ, but not a real faith. Wherefore it is an assured fact that the first sigh of the soul, in its first exercise of faith, is the result of the wonderful union of the soul with its Surety.

We do not deny, however, that there is a gradual increase of the conscious realization, of the lively feeling, and of the free enjoyment of this union, A child possesses its mother from the first moment of its existence: but the sensible enjoyment of its mother’s love gradually awakens and increases with the years, until he fully knows what a treasure God has given him in his mother. And thus the consciousness and enjoyment of what we have in our Savior becomes gradually clearer and deeper, until there comes a moment when we fully realize how rich God has made us in Jesus. And by, this many are led to think that their union with Christ dates from that moment. This is only apparently so. Altho then they became fully conscious of their treasure in Christ, the union itself existed (even subjectively) from the moment of their first cry of faith.

This leads to the fifth and last stage, viz., death. Rejoicing in Him with joy unspeakable and full of glory, altho not seeing Him, much more remains to be desired. Hence our union with Him does <pb n=“337”/> not attain its fullest unfolding until every lack be supplied and we, see Him as He is; and in that blissful vision we shall be like Him, for then He will give us all that He has. Therefore faith makes us partakers first of Himself and then of all His gifts, as the Heidelberg Catechism clearly teaches.


3d. The third point to which we call attention is the nature of this union with Immanuel.

It has a nature peculiar to itself; it may be compared to other unions, but it can never be fully explained by them. Wonderful is the bond between body and soul; more wonderful still the sacramental bond of holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; equally wonderful the vital union between mother, and child in her blood, like that of the vine and its growing branches; wonderful the bond of wedlock; and much more wonderful the union with the Holy Spirit, established by His indwelling. But the union with Immanuel is distinct from all these.

It is a union invisible and intangible; the ear fails to perceive it, and it eludes all investigation; yet it is very real union and communion, by which the life of the Lord Jesus directly affects and controls us. As the unborn babe lives on the mother-blood, which has its heart-beat outside of him, so we also live on the Christ-life, which has its heart-beat not in our soul, but outside of us, in heaven above, in Christ Jesus.


4th. In the fourth place, altho the union with Christ coincides with our covenant-relation to Him as the Head, yet it is not identical with it. Our relations of fellowship to Christ are many. There is a fellowship of feeling and inclination, of love and attachment; we are disciples of the Prophet; we are His blood—bought possession; the subjects of the King; and members of the Covenant of Grace of which He is the Head. But instead of absorbing the “unio mystica,” they are all based upon it. Without this real bond all the others are only imaginary. Hence, while we know, feel, and confess that it is glorious to be safely hid in our Covenant-Head, it is sweeter, more precious and delightful to live in the mystical fellowship of Love.

<div2 title=“Fifth Chapter”>

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Fifth Chapter.



<div3 title=“XXVII. The Calling of the Regenerate”>


The Calling of the Regenerate:


“Whom He did predestinate, them He also called.”—Rom. viii. 30.


In order to hear, the sinner, deaf by nature, must receive hearing ears. “He that hath ears let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”

But by nature the sinner does not belong to these favored ones. This is a daily experience. Of two clerks in the same office, one obeys the call and the other rejects it; not because he despises it, but because he does not hear God’s call in it. Hence God’s quickening act antedates the sinner’s hearing; and thus he becomes able to hear the Word.

The quickening, the implanting of the faith-faculty, and the uniting of the soul to Christ, apparently three acts, are in reality but one act, together constituting (objectively) the so-called first grace. In the operation of this grace the sinner is perfectly passive and indifferent; the subject of an action which does not involve the slightest operation, yielding, or even non-resistance on his part.

In fact, the sinner, being dead in trespasses and sins, is under this first grace like a soulless, motionless body, with all the passive properties belonging to a corpse. This fact can not be stated with sufficient force and emphasis. It is an absolute passivity. And every effort or inclination to claim for the sinner the minutest cooperation in this first grace destroys the Gospel, severs the artery of the Christian confession, and is not only heretical, but anti-Scriptural in the highest sense.

This is the point where the sign-post is erected; where the roads <pb n=“339”/> divide, where the men of the purified, that is, the Reformed Confession, part company with their opponents.

Having stated this fact forcibly and definitely, it is of the utmost importance to state with equal emphasis that, in all the subsequent operations of grace (so-called second grace), this absolute passivity is made to cease by the wonderful act of the first grace. Hence in all subsequent grace the sinner to some extent cooperates.

In the first grace the sinner is absolutely like a corpse. But the sinner’s first passivity and his subsequent cooperation must not be confounded. There is a passivity, after the Scripture, which can not be exaggerated, which must be left intact; but there is also a passivity which is pretended, anti-Scriptural, and sinful. The difference between the two is not that the former is partially cooperating, and the latter without any cooperation whatever. Surely by such temporizing the churches and the souls in them are not inspired with energy and enthusiasm. No; the difference between the sound and the sickly passivity consists herein, that the former, which is absolute and unlimited, belongs to the first grace, to which it is indispensable; while the latter clings to the second grace, where it does not belong.

Let there be clear insight into this truth, which is after all very simple. The elect but unregenerate sinner can do nothing, and the work that is to be wrought in him must be wrought by another: This is the first grace. But after this is accomplished he is no longer passive, for something was brought into him which in the second work of grace will cooperate with God.


But it is not implied that the elect and regenerate sinner is now able to do anything without God; or that if God should cease working in him, conversion and sanctification would follow of themselves. Both these representations are thoroughly untrue, un-Reformed, and unchristian, because they detract from the work of the Holy Spirit in the elect. No; all spiritual good is of grace to the end: grace not only in regeneration, but at every step of the way of life. From the beginning to the end and throughout eternity the Holy Spirit is the Worker, of regeneration and conversion, of justification and every part of sanctification, of glorification, and of all the bliss of the redeemed. Nothing may be subtracted from this.

But while the Holy Spirit is the only Worker in the first grace, <pb n=“340”/> in all subsequent, operations of grace the regenerate always cooperates with Him. Hence it is not true, as some say, that the regenerate is just as passive as the unregenerate; this only detracts from the work of the Holy Spirit in the first grace. Neither is it trice that henceforth the regenerate is the principal worker, only assisted by the Holy Spirit; for this is equally derogatory to the Spirit’s work in the second grace.

Both these errors should be opposed and rejected. For altho, on the one hand, it is said that the regenerate, considered out of Christ, still lies in the midst of death; yet, tho he be considered a thousand times out of Christ, he remains in Him, for once in His hand no one can pluck him out of it. And altho, on the other: hand, the regenerate is constantly admonished to be active and diligent, yet, tho the horse does the pulling, it is not the horse but the driver who drives the carriage.

Reserving this last point until we consider sanctification, we now consider the calling, for this sheds more light upon the confession of the Reformed churches concerning the second grace than any other part of the work of grace.

After the elect sinner is born again, i.e., quickened, endowed with the faculty of faith, and united with Jesus, the next work of grace in him is calling, of which Scripture speaks with such emphasis and so often. “But as He which has called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation”; “Who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”; “The God of all grace who hath called us unto His eternal glory”; “Whereunto He called you by our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ;” “Who hath called you unto His Kingdom and Glory”; “I beseech you to walk worthy of the calling wherewith ye were called;” and not to mention more: “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things ye shall never fall.”

In the Sacred Scripture calling has, like regeneration, a wider sense and a more limited.

In the former sense, it means to be called to the eternal glory; hence this includes all that precedes, i.e., calling to repentance, to faith, to sanctification, to the performance of duty, to glory, to the eternal kingdom, etc.

Of this, however, we do not speak now. It is now our intention to consider the calling in its limited sense, which signifies exclusively <pb n=“341”/> the calling whereby we are called from darkness into light; i.e., the call unto repentance.

This call unto repentance is by many placed upon the same level with the “drawing,” of which, e.g., Jesus speaks: “No man can come unto Me except the Father draw him.” This we find also in some of St. Paul’s words: “Who hath delivered [Dutch translation, drawn] us from the power of darkness”; “That He might deliver [draw] us from this present evil world according to the will of God and our Father.” However, this seems to me less correct. He that must be drawn seems to be unwilling. He that is called must be able to come. The first implies that the sinner is still passive, and therefore refers to the operation of the first grace; the second addresses the sinner himself, and counts him able to come, and hence belongs to the second grace.

This “calling” is a summons. It is not merely the calling of one to tell him something, but a call implying the command to come; or a beseeching call, as when St. Paul prays: “As tho God did beseech you, be ye reconciled to God”; or as in the Proverbs: “My son, give Me thine heart.”

God sends this call forth by the preachers of the Word: not by the independent preaching of irresponsible men, but by those whom He Himself sends forth; men especially endowed, hence. whose calling is not their own, but His. They are the ministers of the Word, royal ambassadors, in the name of the King of Kings demanding our heart, life, and person; yet whose value and honor depend exclusively upon their divine mission and commission. As the value of an echo depends upon the correct returning of the word received, so does their value, honor, and significance depend solely upon the correctness wherewith they call, as an echo of the Word of God. He who calls correctly fills the highest conceivable office on earth; for he calls kings and emperors, standing above them. But he who calls incorrectly or not at all is like a sounding brass; as a minister of the Word he is worthless and Without honor True to the pure Word, he is all; without it, he is nothing. Such is the responsibility of the preacher.

This should be noticed lest Arminianism creep into the holy office. The preacher must be but instrument of the Holy Spirit; even the sermon must be the product of the Holy Ghost. To suppose that a preacher can have the least authority, honor, or official significance outside of the Word, is to make the office Arminian; <pb n=“342”/> not the Holy Spirit, but the dominie, is the worker; he works with all his might, and the Holy Spirit may be the minister’s assistant. To avoid such mistake, our Reformed churches have always purged themselves of the leaven of clericalism.

And through this office the call goes forth from the pulpit, in the catechetical class, in the family, in writing, and by personal exhortation. However, not always to every sinner directly through the office. On a ship at sea God may, use a godly commander to call sinners to repentance. In a hospital without spiritual supervision the Lord may use a pious man or woman, both to nurse the sick and call their souls to repentance. In a village where the quasi-minister, neglects his duty, the Lord God may be pleased to draw souls to life by printed sermons and books, by a newspaper even, or by individual exhortation.

And yet in all these the authority to call reposes in the divine embassy of the ministry of the Word. For the instruments of the call, whether they were persons or printed books, proceeded from the office. The persons were themselves called through the office, and they only transmitted the divine message; and the printed books offered on paper what otherwise is heard in the sanctuary.

This calling of the Holy Spirit proceeds in and through the preaching of the Word, and calls upon the regenerated sinner to arise from death, and to let Christ give him light. It is not a calling of persons still unregenerate, simply because such have no hearing ear.

It is true, that the preaching of missionary or minister of, the Word addresses itself also to others, but this is not at all in conflict with what we have just said. In the first place, because there is also an outward call to the unregenerate, in order to deprive them of an excuse, and to show that they have no hearing ears. And second, because the minister of the Word does not know whether a man is born again or not, wherefore he may make no difference.

As a rule, every baptized person should be reckoned as belonging to the regenerated (but not always converted); wherefore the preacher must call every baptized person to repentance, as tho he were born again. But let no one commit the mistake of applying this rule, which applies only to the Church as a whole, to every person in the Church. This would be either the climax of thoughtlessness or a complete misunderstanding of the reality of the grace of God.

<div3 title=“XXVIII. The Coming of the Called”>

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The Coming of the Called.


“That the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth.”—Rom. ix. 11.


The question is, whether the elect cooperate in the call.

We say, Yes; for the call is no call, in the fullest sense of the word, unless the called one can hear and hears so distinctly that it impresses him, causes him to rise and to obey God. For this reason our fathers, for the sake of clearness, used to distinguish between the ordinary call and the effectual call.

God’s call does not go forth to the elect alone. The Lord Jesus said: “Many are called, few are chosen.” And the issue shows that masses of men die unconverted, altho called by the outward, ordinary call.

Nor should this outward call be slighted or esteemed unimportant; for by it the judgment of many shall be made the heavier in the day of judgment: “If the mighty works which have been done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Therefore it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you”; “And the servant which knew the Lord’s will and did not according to His will shall be beaten with many stripes.” Moreover, the effect of this outward call reaches sometimes much deeper than is generally supposed, and brings one sometimes to the very point of real conversion.

The unregenerate are not so insensible to the truth as never to be touched by it. The decisive words of Heb. vi., concerning the apparently converted who have even tasted of the heavenly gift, prove the contrary. St. Peter speaks of sows which were washed and then returned to the wallowing in the mire. One can be persuaded to be almost a Christian. But for the selling of, his goods the rich young ruler would have been won for Christ. Wherefore <pb n=“344”/> the effect of the ordinary call is by no means as weak and meager as is commonly believed. In the, parable of the sower the fourth class of hearers alone belong to the elect, for they alone bear fruit: Still there is among two of the remaining classes a considerable amount of growth. One of them even produces high stalks and ears; only there is no fruit.

And for this reason the men that company with the people of God should earnestly examine their own hearts, whether their following of the Word is the, result of having the seed sown in “good ground.” Oh, there is so much of illumination and of delight even; and yet only to be choked, because it does not contain the genuine germ of life.

All these unregenerate persons lack saving grace. They hear only with the carnal understanding. They receive the Word, but only in the field of their unsanctified imagination. They let it work upon their natural conscience. It plays merely upon the waves of their natural emotions. Thus they may be moved to tears, and they ardently love whatever so affects them. Yea, they often perform many good works which are truly praiseworthy; they may even give their goods to the poor, and their bodies to be burned. Their salvation is therefore considered to be a matter of fact. But the holy apostle completely destroys their hope, saying: “Tho you speak with the tongues Of men and of angels, that you understand all mystery, tho you give all your goods to feed the poor, and tho you give your body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth you nothing.”

Hence to be God’s child and not a sounding brass, deep, insight, into the divine mysteries, an excited imagination, a troubled conscience, and waves of feeling are not required, for all these may be experienced without any real covenant grace; but what is needed is true, deep love operating in the heart, illuminating and vitalizing all these things.

Adam’s sin consisted in this, that he banished all the love of God from his heart. Now it is impossible to be neutral or indifferent toward God. When Adam ceased to love God, he began to hate Him. And it is this hatred of God which now lies at the bottom of the heart of every child of Adam. Hence conversion means this, that a man get rid of that hatred and receive love in its place. He who says from the heart, “I love the Lord;” is all right. What more can he desire!

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But as long as there is no love for God, there is nothing. For mere willingness to do something for God, even to bear great sacrifices, and to be very pious and benevolent, except it spring from the right motive, is in its deepest ground nothing but a despising of God. However beautiful the veneering, all these apparently good works are inwardly cankered, sin-eaten, and decayed. Love alone imparts the real flavor to the sacrifice. Wherefore the holy apostle declares so sternly and sharply: “Tho you give your body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth you nothing.”

To perform good works in order to be saved, or, to oblige God, or to make one’s own piety lofty and conspicuous, is a growth from the old root and at the most but a semblance of love. To cherish true love for God is to be constrained by love to yield one’s ego with all that it is and has, and to let God be God again. And the ordinary, the general, the outward call never has such effect; it is incapable of producing it.

Wherefore we leave the ordinary call and return to the call which is particular, wonderful, inward, and effectual; which addresses itself not to all, but exclusively to the elect.

This call, which is spoken of as “Iheavenly(Heb. iii. 1), as “holy” (2 Tim. i. 9), as “being without repentance” (Rom. xi. 29), is “according to God’s purpose” (Rom. viii. 28), is “from above in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Phil. iii. 14.), and does not have its starting-point in the preaching. He that calls by it is God, not the minister. And this call goes forth by the means of two agencies, one coming to man from without and the other from within. Both these agencies are effectual, and the call has accomplished its purpose and the sinner has come to repentance as soon as their workings meet and unite in the center of his being.

Hence we deny that the regenerate, hearing the preached Word, will come of himself. We do not thus understand their cooperation. If the inward call is sufficient, how is it that the regenerate can sometimes hear the preaching without arising, unrepentant, refusing to let Christ give him light? But we confess that the call of the regenerate is twofold: from without by the preached Word, and from within by the exhortation and conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Hence the work of the Holy Spirit in the calling is twofold:

The first work is, as He comes with the Word: the Word which is inspired, prepared, committed to writing, and preserved by Himself, <pb n=“346”/> who is God the Holy Ghost. And He brings that Word to the sinners by preachers whom He Himself has endowed with talents; animation, and spiritual insight. And so wonderfully does He conduct that preaching through the channel of the office and of the historical development of the confession, that at last it comes to him in the form and character required to affect and win, him.

We see in this a very mysterious leading of the Holy Spirit. Afterward a preacher will learn that, under his preaching in such a church and at such an hour, a regenerate person was converted. And yet he had not specially prepared himself for it. Frequently he did not even know that person; much less his spiritual condition. And yet, without knowing it, his thoughts were guided and his word was prepared in such a way by the Holy Ghost; perhaps he looked at the man in such a manner that his word, in connection with the Spirit’s inward, operation, became to him the real and concrete Word of God., W e hear it often said: “That was directly preached at me.” And so it was. It should be understood, however, that it was not the minister who preached at you, for he did not even think of you; but it was the Holy Spirit Himself. It was He who thought of you. It was He who had it all prepared for you. It was He Himself who wrought in you.

The ministers of the Word should therefore be exceedingly careful not in the least to boast of the conversions that occur under their ministry. When after days of failure the fisherman draws his net full of fishes, is this cause for the net to boast itself? Did it not come up empty again and again; and then was it not nearly torn asunder by the multitude of fishes?

To say that this proves the efficiency of the preacher is against the Scripture. There may be two ministers, the one well grounded in doctrine, the other but lightly furnished; and yet the former has no conversions in his church, while the latter is being richly blessed. In this the Lord God is and remains the Sovereign Lord. He passes by the heavily armed champions in Saul’s army, and David; with scarcely any weapons at all, slays the giant Goliath. All that a preacher has to do is to consider how, in obedience to his Lord, he may minister the Word, leaving results with the Lord. And when the Lord God gives him conversions, and Satan whispers, “What an excellent preacher you are, that it was given you to convert so many men!” then he is to say, “Get thee behind, me, Satan,” giving the glory to the Holy Spirit alone.

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However, it is not the Holy Spirit’s only care. in such a way and focus of life to cause the Word to come to a regenerate person, but He adds also a second work, viz., that by which the preached Word effectively enters the very center of his heart and life.

By this second care He so illuminates his natural understanding and strengthens his natural ability and imagination that he receives the general tenor of the preached Word and thoroughly understands its contents.

But this is not all, for even pretended believers may have this. The seed of the Word attains this growth, also in those who have received the seed into a rocky ground and among thorns. Hence to this is added the illumination of his understanding, which wonderful gift enables him not only to apprehend the general sense of the preached Word, but also to perceive and realize that this Word comes to him directly from God; that it affects and condemns his very being, thus causing him to penetrate into its hidden essence and feel the sharp sting which effects conviction.

Lastly, the Holy Spirit plies this conviction—which otherwise would quickly vanish—so long and so severely, that finally the sting, like the keen edge of a lancet, pierces the thick skin and lays open the festering sore. This is in the called a very wonderful operation. The general understanding puts the matter before him; the illumination reveals to him what it contains; and the conviction puts the sharp two-edged sword directly upon his heart. Then, however, he is inclined to shrink from that sword; not to let it pierce through, but to let it glance harmlessly from the soul. But then the Holy Spirit, in full activity, continues to press that sword of conviction, driving it so forcibly into the soul that at last it cuts through and takes effect.


But this does not end the calling. For after the Holy Spirit has done all this, He begins to operate upon the will; not by forcibly bending it, as an iron rod in the strong hand of the blacksmith, but by making it, tho stiff and unyielding, pliant and tender from within. He could not do this in the unregenerate. But having laid in regeneration the foundation of all these subsequent operations in the soul, He proceeds to build upon it; or, to take another figure, He draws the sprouts from the germ planted in the ground. They do not start of themselves, but He draws them out of the germ. A grain of wheat deposited in a desk remains what it is; but warmed <pb n=“348”/> by the sun in the soil, the heat causes it to sprout. And so it is here. The vital germ can do nothing of itself; it remains what it is. But when the Holy Spirit causes the fostering rays of the Suit of Righteousness to play upon it, then it germinates, and thus He draws from it the blade and the ear and the corn in the ear.

Hence the yielding of the will is the result of a tenderness and emotion and affection which sprang from the implanted germ of life, by which the will, which was at first inflexible, became pliant; by which that which was inclined to the left was drawn to the right. And so, by this last act, conviction, with all that it contains, was brought into the will; and this resulted in the yielding of self, giving glory to God.

And in this way love entered the soul-love tender, genuine, and mysterious, the ecstasy of which vibrates in our hearts during all our after-life.


And this finishes the exposition of the divine work of calling. It belongs to the elect alone. It is irresistible, and no man can hinder it. Without it no sinner ever passed from the bitterness of hatred to the sweetness of love. When the call and regeneration coincide, they seem to be one; and so they are to our consciousness; but actually they are distinct. They differ in this respect, that regeneration takes place independently of the will and understanding; that it is wrought in us without our aid or cooperation; while in calling, the will and understanding begin to act, so that we hear with both the outward and inward ear, and with the inclined will are willing to go out to the light.

<div3 title=“XXIX. Conversion of All That Come”>

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Conversion of All That Come.


“Turn Thou me and I shall be turned.”—Jer. xxxi. 18.


The elect, born again and effectually called, converts himself. To remain unconverted is impossible; but he inclines his ear, he turns his face to the blessed God, he is converted in the fullest sense of the word.

In conversion the fact of cooperation on the part of the saved sinner assumes a clearly defined and perceptible character. In regeneration there was none; in the calling there was a beginning of it; in conversion proper it became a fact. When the Holy Spirit regenerates a man, it is an “Effatha,” i.e., He opens the ear. When He effectually calls him, He speaks into that opened ear, which cooperates by receiving the sound, that is, by harkening. But when the Holy Spirit actually converts the man, then the act of man coalesces with the act of the Holy Spirit, and it is said: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him”; and in another place: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.”

It is a remarkable fact that the Sacred Scripture refers to, conversion almost one hundred and forty times as being an act of man, and only six times as an act of the Holy Ghost. It is repeated again and again: “Repent and turn to the Lord your God”; “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord” (Jer. iii. 22); “Sinners shall return unto Thee” (Psalm li. 13, Dutch Version); “Repent and do thy first works” (Rev. ii. 5). But conversion as an act of the Holy Spirit is spoken of only in Psalm xix. 8, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul”; in Jer. xxxi. 18, “Turn Thou me and I shall be turned”; in Acts xi. 18, “That God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life”; Rom. ii. 4, “That the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance”; in 2 Tim. ii. 25, “If God peradventure will give them repentance”; in Heb. vi. 6, “That it is impossible to renew such (as fall away) to repentance.”

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This fact should be carefully considered. When Scripture presents conversion as the Spirit’s act but six times, and as man’s act one hundred and forty times, in preaching the same proportion should be observed. And, therefore, the preachers who, when preaching on conversion, treat it almost invariably in its passive aspect and, in the abstract; who apparently lack the courage and boldness to declare to their hearers that it is their duty to convert themselves unto God, seriously err. It has a very pious look, but it is against the Scripture. And yet it is perfectly natural that one should hesitate to say, “You must convert yourself,” so long as regeneration and conversion are still confounded. For then the declaration, “You must convert yourself,” ignores the sovereignty of God, and implies that a dead sinner is still able to do something of himself. And this is the reason why the preachers who will not surrender the sovereignty of God, and who will not deduct anything from the deadness of the sinner, are afraid “to speak to deaf ears.” Hence they pray for the conversion of the hearers, but dare not in the Name of the Lord demand it of them.

And nothing may be deducted either from the divine sovereignty or from the sinner’s deadness. Every demand for conversion which has such tendency is Pelagianism, and must be rejected. But if the teaching of the Reformed Church in this respect be thoroughly understood, the whole difficulty disappears.

It should be noticed, however, that Scripture, speaking of conversion, does not always imply that it is saving conversion. The real work of salvation is always accompanied on its way by a phantom. Alongside of saving faith goes temporal faith; alongside of the effectual call, the ordinary call; and alongside of saving conversion, ordinary conversion.

Conversion in its saving sense occurs but once in a man’s life, and this act can never be repeated. Once having passed from death unto life, he is alive and will never return unto death. Perdition is not a stream spanned by many bridges; nor does the saint, tossed between endless hopes and fears, cross the bridge leading to life, by and by to return by another to the shores of death. No; there is but one bridge, which can be crossed but once; and he that has crossed it is kept by the power of God from going back. Tho all powers should combine to draw him back, God is stronger than all, and no one shall pluck him out of His hand.

We state this as distinctly and forcibly as possible, for at this <pb n=“351”/> point souls are often led astray. It is heard repeatedly these days, “Your conversion is not a momentary act, but an act of life which repeats itself constantly; and wo to the man who fails for a single day to be converted anew.” And this is altogether wrong. Language should not be so confounded. Tho the child grows for twenty years after he is born, and before he attains maturity, yet, he is born but once, and neither conception nor pregnancy before it, nor growth after it, is called “birth.”

The fixed boundary should be respected also in this instance. It is true that conversion is preceded by something else, but that is called not “conversion,” but “regeneration” and “calling”; and so there is something following “conversion,” but that is called “sanctification.” No doubt the word “conversion” may also be applied to the return of the converted but backslidden child of God, after the example of Scripture; but then it refers not to the saving act of conversion, but to the continuance of the, work once begun, or to a return not from death, but from a temporary going astray.

In order to discriminate correctly in this matter, it is necessary to notice the fourfold use of the word conversion in the Scripture.

1. “Conversion,” in its widest scope, signifies a forsaking of wickedness and a disposition to morality. In this sense it is said of the Ninevites that God saw their works, that they turned from their evil works. This does not imply, however, that all these Ninevites belonged to the elect, and that every one of them was saved.

2. “Conversion,” in its limited sense, signifies saving conversion, as in Isa. lv. 7: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”

3. And again, “conversion” signifies that, even after it has become a fact in our hearts, its principles must be applied to every relation of our life. A converted person may for a long time continue to indulge in bad habits and ungodly practises, but gradually his eyes are opened for the evil, and then he repents and forsakes the one after the other. So we read in Ezek. xviii. 30: “Repent and turn yourselves from all your transgressions.”

4. Lastly, “conversion” signifies the return of converted persons to their first love, after a season of coldness and weakness in <pb n=“352”/> the faith, e.g.: “Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and repent and do thy first works” (Rev. ii. 5).

But in this connection we speak of saving conversion, of which we make the following remarks:

First—It is not the spontaneous act of the regenerate. Without the Holy Spirit conversion would not follow regeneration: Even tho called, he could not come of himself. Hence it is of primary importance to acknowledge the Holy Spirit, and to honor His work as the first cause of conversion as well as of regeneration and calling. As no one can pray as he ought unless the Holy Spirit prays in him with groans that can not be uttered, so no regenerate and called person can convert himself as he ought unless the Holy Spirit begin and continue the work in him. The redemptive work is not like the growing plant, increasing of itself. Nay, if the saint is a temple of God, the Holy Spirit dwells in him. And this indwelling indicates that everything accomplished by the saint is wrought in him in communion with, by the incitement and through the animation of the Holy Spirit. The implanted life is not an isolated germ left to root in the soul without the Holy Spirit and the Mediator, but it is carried, kept, bedewed, and fostered from moment to moment out of Christ by the Holy Spirit. As men can not speak without air and the operation of Providence vitalizing the organs of respiration and articulation, so it is impossible that the regenerated man can live and speak and act from the new life without being supported, incited, and animated by the Holy Spirit.

Hence when the Holy Spirit calls that man and he turns himself, then there is not the slightest part in this act of the will which is not supported, incited, and animated by the Holy Spirit.


Second—This saving conversion is also the conscious and voluntary choice and act of the person born again and called. While the air and impulse to speak must come from without, and my organs of speech must be supported by the providence of God, yet it is I who speak. And in much stronger sense does the Holy Spirit in conversion work upon the wheels and springs of man’s regenerated personality, so that all His operations must pass through man’s ego.

Many of His operations do not affect the ego, as in Balaam’s case. But not so in conversion. Then the Holy Spirit works only <pb n=“353”/> through us. Whatever He wills He brings into our will; He causes all His actions to be effected through the organism of our being.

Hence man must be commanded, “Convert thyself.” The teacher bids the pupil speak, altho he knows that the child can not do so unaided by Providence. In the new life the ego depends upon the Holy Spirit who dwells and works in him. But in conversion he knows nothing of this indwelling, nor that he is born again; and it would be useless to speak to him about it. He must be told, “Convert thyself.” If the Spirit’s action accompanies that word, the man will convert himself; if not, he will continue unconverted. But tho he convert himself, he will not boast, I have done this myself, but bow down in thankfulness and glorify that divine work by which he was converted.

In these two we find the evidence of genuine conversion: first, the man bidden, converts himself, and then he gratefully gives glory to the Holy Spirit alone. Not that we fear a man’s conversion will be hindered by some one’s neglect. In all the work of God’s grace His Almightiness sweeps away everything that resists, so that all opposition melts away like wax, and every mountain of pride flees from His presence. Neither slothfulness nor neglect can ever hinder an elect person from passing from death into life at the appointed time.

But there is a responsibility for the preacher, for the pastor, for parents and guardians. To be free from a man’s blood, we must tell every man that conversion is his urgent duty; and to be without excuse before God, after his conversion, we must give thanks to God, who alone has accomplished it in and through His creature.

<div2 title=“Sixth Chapter”>

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Sixth Chapter.


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